How innovative brands can integrate with urban communities


We all know that non-profits of all shapes and sizes exist because they want to fill a specific need in the community. We accept this without question.

However, we are often very cynical of for-profits trying to do the same thing as we suspect them of having an ulterior profit-driven motive. We might feel justified in thinking this way, as there have been many corporate responsibility campaigns that were later shown to be purely advertising stunts or insubstantial afterthoughts.


Conversation Notes

  • When it comes to a brand it’s not about what ‘matters’, it’s about what doesn’t matter. It’s the intangibles, it’s the meaning.
  • Fundamentally, return on investment will always be a key consideration. Going forward, this will mean creating value beyond the billboard.
  • The DNA for any advertising campaign is a big idea, which often comes from a big ego. This idea is only expressed once we’re interrupted.
  • Advertising does not change behaviour, it only prompts our behaviour. The context upon which the advertisement takes place changes behaviour.
  • Brands that are good for people are also great for business.


The quiet achievers

There are many organisations out there doing good things quietly and having a big impact. What’s more, they are doing it while still maintaining a healthy bottom line. Some have realised that society’s most challenging problems cannot be solved by governments and non-profits alone, so they have restructured their business models to bridge these gaps in ways that benefit everyone.

Certified B Corporations, for example, are businesses that “Meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.”

To obtain B Corporation certification, businesses are required to consider the impact of all their decisions on their workers, customers, community, and environment.

Other organisations that have taken on their social responsibility with gusto include pharmaceutical brand Johnson & Johnson – whose many initiatives include their HealtheVoices conferences which now occur globally and provide inspiration and training for online health advocates.

The Australian company, CubeRider have developed school-based programs that encourage participation in STEM subjects by teaching students how to code and giving them practical experiments that are conducted on the International Space Station.

What these organisations have realised is that the benefits of helping specific communities flow both ways. As Petra Barbu states in her article for MovingWorlds Doing Well by Doing Good: What We Can Learn From 2018’s Most Innovative Companies:


“Customers recognize authentic intention and seek out brands that align with their morals. Considering people and the planet before profit could actually be a smart way to improve your company’s impact in all three areas.”


Brand immersion

Sergio Brodsky believes this approach can be taken even further. He is an internationally-recognised marketing strategist, a regular columnist at Marketing Magazine, and is passionate about cities, culture, and the role of brands and technology in society. In Brodsky’s presentation Urban Brand-Utility: Impact Branding For The Urbanising Century, part of Florence Guild’s speaker series ’The Art of Focus’, he discussed how brands can become an integral and functional part of the urban landscape. His concept is less about sales and more about shared value.

Brodsky says that brand communication is currently focused on interrupting our real-life moments. He believes that this communication can be tailored to enhance the experiences in our daily moments instead. Brands can supply badly-needed public infrastructure, for example, and move from being mere messengers to becoming an integral part of our urban society.


“If you only build your brand, you will die. If you just sell your product, you’ll become irrelevant. It’s an orchestration of both, you need to sell your stuff and your story.” – Sérgio Brodsky


What can you do to help your business integrate better with your community?

Talk to your consumers or the locals in the areas you would like to do business in. Find out what they need in terms of resources, people power, funds or getting past red tape. Where are the gaps? What activities could be done in a more sustainable way?

If you can’t change your whole business model to enable your social responsibility, consider the things that you can do within your current model. For example:

  • Partnering with non-profits on mutually-beneficial projects, such as donating a percentage of your ongoing sales.
  • Paying your employees to volunteer with nominated organisations once a month.
  • Only using suppliers whose supply chain can be traced and shown to be ethical and environmentally sustainable.
  • Co-sponsoring a scholarship with a community group that reflects common aims or goals


You can find more ideas on how to initiate social responsibility programs in your business on the Australian Institute for Corporate Responsibility website.



Sérgio’s Linkedin: Sérgio Brodsky  |  Sérgio’s Twitter: @brandKzar

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This episode forms part of our 2018 series narrative, ‘The Art of Focus’ which is based on the premise that, in an information-dense society, our attention resources have become depleted. The series’ speakers will help us identify and explore the areas in our lives where we may need to regain focus, increase our self-awareness and improve how we interact with those around us.

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