Business, Brands and Society

Posted by on Jul 5, 2007 in Uncategorized | No Comments

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From the Herd point of view, the consensus that has prevailed for the last couple of decades – that business’ primary (or only) rightful concern is with its shareholders interests has alwas seemed vapid.

Struck today by the hollowness of the consensus with 2 articles from the McKInsey archive here and here. In the first (based on a survey of US business leaders), the authors suggest that engaging in society is seen by a minority of business leaders as something like old-school smalltown philanthropy; in the second, the authors argue for engagement with society as the means to combat the many voices critical of business – as if it were a mere tactical move.

It’s clearly bollock: business has to engage with society because it is already engaged, even if it would like to stick its fingers in its ears and wail “la, la, la, not listening”. Business exists in a context other than itself: it is more than the factories and process charts that it uses to describe itself. It involves a bunch of folk who are connected to other folk, in the world. And everything it does has a social impact on its customers.

Years ago, (well, nearly 10) the great Henry Mintzberg (see pic) wrote a piece in the Sloan (no ‘e’) Management Review which explained how the separation came about and suggested that the declaration of UDi was based on laziness of the managers: of course it’s difficult to balance the interests of shareholders, staff, customers and the wider world. That’s why successful managers get paid so well. Choosing not to think about it is…grrrrrrrrrr, just grrrrrrr stupid.

Now, with all of the connectedness and the concern for our shared future (for example that ol’ ecological moon again) it seems that some at least in the world of business are waking up to this.

And while we in the world of branding plot and scheme around “social object theory”., “Social media” and the like, it’s time we took on board the responsibility we havefor operating in a social context also. Not enough thought gone in to this area of branding, methinks.