Close-Up: Throwing the spotlight on brands' behaviour

By tracking brands' actions and asking consumers to rate them, Brandkarma promises to be a force for good, Craig Davis says.

There are plenty of people talking about the decline of the branded age. I don't agree. Brands are getting more interesting and becoming far more compelling than marketing gives them credit for.

Just think about the brands making the headlines in the past couple of months - British Airways, Facebook and BP, to name just three.

Two things have happened. First, lots of people, from customers and unions to investors and environmental groups, want to tell brand stories - and they've got wickedly efficient means to do it.

Second, there's a growing audience for these stories as we realise that our brand choices have consequences and that, through our wallets, we wield great power.

We started www.brandkarma.com as the world's first brand-centric social media platform; it brings together important information about how brands behave, allowing people to evaluate them. It will host discussions and by helping to inform purchase decisions, it will influence brand behaviour. It all began with two questions: What kind of a world do we want to live in? And what kind of world do we want to leave our kids? These issues are raised implicitly at a number of business forums, such as Copenhagen and Davos, but the marketing conversation is not always central to business decision-making.

So the idea behind Brandkarma is to harness our collective wisdom (chief executives included). We're all consumers, employees, investors, suppliers and fellow earthlings. And one thing's for sure, the pursuit of a pure growth agenda is not the road to sustainability for any of us.

It's no longer enough that brand owners make money for shareholders, they have to return value to all their stakeholders. We think the priority of corporate social responsibility should be a brand's immediate stakeholders - customers, employees, suppliers, investors and the planet. In time, we believe Brandkarma will become an important indicator and influencer of brands' conduct and character.

More democratic, transparent and accountable brand management is coming, ready or not, and the worst thing that happens with Brandkarma is that everyone ends up better informed, the brand owners included.

We're at the beginning of a public beta phase, so we're listening hard and learning fast from users. We'll be simplifying where we can and adding functionality that makes sense for users. We've already done an independent user survey and are hugely encouraged by the results, but there's a long way to go.

- Craig Davis is a founder of Brandkarma and the co-chairman and chief creative officer of Publicis Mojo.

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