First off, I’m going to be totally honest: I didn’t come up with the idea of benevolent brands – it’s been around the past few years. Even worse, I had to google “define benevolent” to even understand what the word benevolent even meant at first! I’ve since discovered that I’m not the only one, so for those of you who suck at Scrabble too, here you go:
Benevolent (adjective): “well-meaning and kindly” and “an organization serving a charitable rather than a profit-making purpose.”
In the past month there’s been a surge in brands doing cool, benevolent things that take them beyond their core categories (cars, dog food, vodka) – and into an adjacent space that might not make them rich, but certainly make their brand proposition stronger.
The one you’ve probably seen mentioned the most is Volvo’s “LifePaint.” The boxy family car that’s synonymous with “safety” has deepened its commitment to safety by creating a spray that can be used on bikes, backpacks and clothing so they become reflective at night (but look no different in daylight). Apparently the bike shops that sell it are receiving hundreds of phone calls a day about it. Whilst Volvo isn’t in the bike business, it is in the business of safe driving and this initiative has got people talking about the brand again.
Similarly, dog food Pedigree has launched Pedigree Found – an app that lets dog owners notify if their pet has gone missing, and in conjunction, Google Display Network will post a picture of the dog to people within a 2.5km radius of the owner – acting almost like a digital “Missing Dog” poster. So far it's only in New Zealand (and so far it only applies to missing dogs... what about us crazy cat ladies?!?!)
And last, Absolut Vodka is elevating its 30-year connection to the art world with Absolut Art – an initiative that helps regular folks like us (I assume you’re not a high end art collector either) discover and purchase artworks from rising talent around the world. First stop: Stockholm (of course). It demonstrates that their commitment to artistry and creativity isn’t just lip service – it’s part of who they are as a brand.
Based on my own newsfeed of friends’ posts, the social media currency of these benevolent initiatives seems strong – and I imagine they have a good deal of PR value as well. The beauty is they manage to strengthen the brand without resorting to traditional forms of advertising… and do some good for the world at the same time.
What do you think… Is it all hippy-dippy feel good stuff with little reach and impact? Or something every brand needs to be investigating?