Why companies should bring ethics into their brands

It is increasingly clear that consumers are choosing to engage with brands that have a positive impact on society. If they have a choice between two similar products, they will choose the one made by a company that uses environmentally-friendly packaging, contributes to helping disadvantaged people or promotes a healthy lifestyle for example.

Research from Unilever supports this, revealing its sustainable brands are growing 50% faster than its regular brands. In fact, those brands delivered over 60% of the company’s total growth in 2016, up from 46% last year.

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For companies, bringing ethics and social commitment into their brands is a strategy that could determine the success or failure of the company. Consumers are loyal to companies that offer good products and services, but if the company also visibly contributes to creating a better world, it will certainly win over consumers.

Brands serving society

However, being committed to society is not something that can be improvised, nor is it decided by the executive board to be a priority for the next quarter. It is forged from the very start of any company: someone detects a need in society and creates a product or service to meet that need. Service design, embracing technology to serve humans, plays a key role in creating brands that make the world a better place in this sense.

Using the mindset and the methodology from the field of design, service design looks to technology to deliver what a consumer wants, designs the best services and products and, from then on, improves the overall brand experience offered to customers.

One could say a company that is incapable of seeing things through consumers’ eyes, does not try to offer its customers the best solution and product, and is therefore not acting very ethically.

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For example, customer satisfaction surveys often solely evaluate whether the workers follow the rules or not. Imagine the potential of these evaluations if they focused on what really distinguishes successful companies from the rest? What if we explored the customers’ world and identified the experience that would really make a difference for them?

It’s essential to be responsible

In a society in which a bad reputation can destroy a brand, service design uses technology to make a direct impact on how consumers perceive companies’ values. One of the fundamental approaches to service design is working with user journeys and the concept of touchpoints; the elements through which consumers get their impression of the brand.

Companies that have implemented service design ensure these touchpoints are designed in such a way that they convey the company’s core values.

In addition to improving how these values or ethical principles are conveyed, it’s possible to detect new opportunities to create touchpoints that contribute to communicating these key messages. Once again, service design strengthens the relationship between the consumer and the seller because the experience is more positive.

Nike going beyond shoes

One good example of how to take advantage of design and technology to inspire consumer behaviour whilst simultaneously generating a positive effect on the consumer experience is an initiative Nike led.

Some time ago the large multinational stopped selling products and instead began selling experiences, which reached its peak with the use of technology and apps. For example, its fun FuelBox initiative encouraged people to get out and run. Fuel Box was a dispensing machine that sold products in exchange for points collected by the user in their FuelBand.

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This motivated users of Nike’s activity tracker to exercise and gather points that could be exchanged for the brand’s products. This is a clear example of how to use technology to have a positive impact on your customers.

Nike On Demand is another great example of how the company designs new services; the latest being an amazing choreography between technology and human, really relating to the world of people in a holistic an individual way powered by technology. Nike’s wealth of athlete data showed them that staying committed to their goals over time is the hardest thing for athletes.

They also realised a shift in Germany from public social media-based conversations to the closed world of private messaging. Nike used those insights to design a service that would help athletes keep on track: they told Nike their goals and the company put their network of trainers, services and experts at their fingertips via one to one messaging.

Based on their individual needs, Nike delivered run routes, nutrition advice, training plans and much more for six weeks via a chat service. The result was athletes sharing their personal stories and accomplishments, and a high level of advocacy for the brand.

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It is obvious that if brands focus on actions that have a positive social impact or change behaviour for the better, they can stand out from their competitors and affect consumers’ perceptions.

Ultimately, the key is designing an optimal customer experience that goes beyond the product and service being sold. Service design helps companies use technology to improve their results as much as possible, and to be efficient and effective.

When the service is seamless and appealing to the audience combined with an effort to change behaviour and drive action, brands will have really created a company that contributes to making the world a better place.


Sourced by Professor Birgit Mager, president of Service Design Network 


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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