Walking through town recently I strolled past a branch of a popular sushi chain;
“READ OUR MANIFESTO” screamed a poster from the window.
The firm wasn’t showcasing its salmon rolls or “Pandamania” dish (real), but it was inviting potential customers to inspect its socially responsible credentials.
Manifestos are usually reserved for political parties desperate for the votes of the electorate, not food chains trying to flog “spicy tuna dragon rolls” (again, real), so what’s happening?
As any smart brand manager will tell you, it’s not enough to advertise a product and expect people to buy it.
Now you need to be a company with values; one that stands for something and is proud to fly the flag of a socially responsible cause.
This isn’t just CSR, it’s a fundamental shift in the priorities that customers are placing on how they chose their brands of choice.
In a world where hashtags drive social change, brands are now having to sell their caring credentials just as hard as their products.
Netflix has made much of its championing of BAME talent and directors, Levi’s has promised to use less water in the production of its jeans and LEGO has committed to use 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
Much of this trend has been driven by younger customers (25-40), those with a little disposable income and a lot of causes to support.
As an agency man, I’m left wondering: what does this mean for us?
This younger demographic is the life blood of every agency out there. If millennials are picking their favourite companies based on what they stand for, does this mean they’ll chose which agency to work for in the same way?
Any agency that has tried to recruit top talent in the past year will know that this is a candidate’s market. The great people are few and the job opportunities many.
One recruiter I spoke to said that she had never seen a year like it, with candidates spoilt for choice and agencies desperate to differentiate themselves from each other.
Is the truth that candidates are picking agencies in the same way they choose their sushi?
Are they now drawn to an employer not because of the money or title, but because of the difference it claims to make to the wider world?
As agencies, we dismiss this phenomenon at our peril. Those who don’t adapt to this growing trend will be left behind.
This year, every agency worth its salt will need to re-evaluate what it’s giving back and why it matters.
We will need work with virtuous clients, deliver pro bono activity for charitable names and give our people the time to make a difference.
If this trend forces us to do more for the world around us, then maybe it’s the best thing since sliced sashimi.
Alex Davies is director, healthcare communications, at Hanover.
This article was originally published in PR Week.