Afdhel Aziz is a brand-purpose, marketing innovation, and social entrepreneurship expert who is brimming with ideas. He recently spoke at an American Advertising Federation Memphis event at FedExForum to a crowd of marketing communications professionals about his book
Good Is the New Cool – Market Like You Give a Damn, which he co-authored with Bobby Jones of Peace First. Aziz is the founder and chief purpose officer of Conspiracy of Love, a think-tank and idea incubator that helps Fortune 500 companies like Adidas, Sonos, Bacardi, and Mars use culture and technology as a force for good.
Aziz and Jones believe that the world changers — innovators and provocateurs — have the power to use business and culture for good. Great marketing has the ability to optimize life, to go beyond just selling to consumers by engaging with citizens of the world.
And it’s millennials and Gen Z who are driving this shift in marketing. Those generations expect social responsibility from their brands while still insisting on cutting-edge products with on-trend design. Brands still need to be cool, but now they need to be good, too. To capture the buying power of these millennials and Gen Z, companies need to address environmental, civic, and economic issues in a way that grows their brand and business, while giving back to society.
Aziz introduced “purpose” as the fifth “P” to what is commonly known as the 4 P’s of marketing: price, product, place, and promotion. He emphasized that all companies should have a brand purpose. It’s the “why” of a company’s existence, the higher-order reason for being a brand or business beyond just making a profit or driving shareholder value.
One company driven by its brand purpose to do good is Airbnb. Its brand purpose is clear: “We help people belong anywhere.” Airbnb’s purpose-driven approach led to the launch of an initiative called Open Homes, making it easier to help people in need of housing due to disaster, conflict, or illness. After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, an Airbnb host asked if it was possible for her to house people left stranded by the storm for free. That was the beginning of Airbnb’s now global platform for connecting people in need with short-term shelter.
Open Homes works much like a traditional Airbnb, but the price is set at $0 and Airbnb collects no fees. Open Homes makes it possible for anyone to help because hosts are not required to be signed up with Airbnb. Relief agencies and nonprofits make the bookings, not the individuals who need help. To date, Open Homes hosts have offered temporary housing to more than 11,000 displaced people. Co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky set a goal in January 2017 for Airbnb to provide housing for 100,000 people in need by 2022.
While many major tech firms have philanthropic arms or initiatives, Open Homes is different in that it is not tied to a foundation nor does it stand to help bring more revenue-generating customers on the platform. Airbnb co-founder and chief product officer Joe Gebbia told Fast Company that this is how he thinks twenty-first-century corporate philanthropy should look.
“We’re writing the checks to help others solve the problems,” says Gebbia, whose company has agreed to donate $4 million to the International Rescue Committee, which responds to the worst humanitarian crises by helping people survive and rebuild their lives. “We’re actually applying our own talent and expertise to solve these issues.”
Your company also has the ability to solve cultural problems, but it may require a shift in thinking. Think transformational, not transactional. And act on that transformation. Take this opportunity to build a better tomorrow by committing to your brand purpose and doing good.
Andrea Wiley is director of account management at DCA Creative Communications Consulting, and is an adjunct professor teaching advertising at the University of Memphis. She was the 2015-2016 president of the American Advertising Federation, Memphis Chapter, and can be reached at [email protected]