What colour can do for communities

Sensemaking / What colour can do for communities

Anna Simpson asks David Brunt about the brand value of social impact.

By Anna Simpson / 06 Nov 2014

The impact of colour upon our mood is the driver behind the Let’s Colour project, an initiative developed by Akzonobel brand Dulux. By transforming grey and unappealing spaces into bright and colourful environments, the projectvaims to bring happiness to the lives of thousands of individuals. Specifically, by 2020, Dulux aims to have ‘coloured the lives’ of one million people around the world. So far, the brand has donated 674,629 litres of paint to community painting schemes across the world, including Community Repaint and DDC Colouring the Community, supported by the Let’s Colour Fund.

Anna Simpson: Are there commercial reasons for brands to take on a greater role in society?

David Brunt: Dulux does a lot of engagement at a community level. In Brazil, it really is core to the brand. Dulux sees the synergy between community and social transformation and the development of the brand.  The resonance from campaigns even translates into normal marketing measures, such as ‘top of mind’ indicators. At a higher level, the rationale for ‘Let’s Colour’ or ‘Tu Decor’ is that colour can actually have an impact on wellbeing. You work with the community to brighten up a place, and that may seem superficial, but bringing people together creates a lot of dynamic interaction. Dulux also trains people in that community to paint, so they can then sell their skills – which of course relates back to sales.

AS: Is this sort of engagement seen as a marketing investment, or philanthropy?

DB: The former. I think a lot of brand strategists believe in the importance of the social dimensions of the brand, but most of these projects don’t come from that angle. For many brands, it’s still a transactional thing: if we’re going to invest money in this activity, we need to see some payback. You can get a lot from the PR side of it without having to advertise. Sometimes, the activity results from a corporate imperative, which is more philanthropic: for instance, the CEO believes it’s important. But then, if the CEO leaves,the impetus goes also.

AS: Is that because it’s not easy to relate the value back to the business model?

DB: There will be a way, if you design a measurement to do it. Unfortunately, marketers are not always drawing connections more widely than to the sales. In all of our key countries we track our impacts relating to social benefits. The question might be whether the metrics are appropriate to measure the deliverables from that activity: do the numbers tell us enough? This is something we’re working with Forum for the Future to understand.

AS: Do these activities relate in any clear way to the mission of the brand?

DB: I think so. The brand is more than the physical colour: it’s about engaging people with their surroundings, and transforming communities. I think when people buy a brand they want to feel good about it. So, if you can have a more thorough impact, then customers will think, “This brand isn’t just selling me stuff, but is consistently helping me transform my community”. There’s a depth of association for that brand: you’re known as that metaphor for transformation, and that leads to greater loyalty.

David Brunt is Global Environment and Sustainability Director at Akzonobel

Image credit:  Rogerio Bromfman

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