In the last several years, the ground has shifted beneath the feet of marketers like never before. Andrew Shibata, Head of Brand Marketing at RBC, has experienced this shift and was inspired to charge the change of sponsorship models and social branding for initiatives like RBC’s Blue Water Project. This afternoon, Andy led delegates through an interactive discussion around the need for marketers to drive a social stake into all brand mixes or face the resulting consequences.

Sparking an engaging and provocative session, Andy started the discussion with some staggering stats on social branding that were grounded in one key fact: Doing good is good for business. High trust firms outperform low trust firms 3:1. The “28 firms of endearment” outperformed the s&p500 9:1 over 10 years. The list goes on.

Balancing business marketing + social brand marketing is key to driving business. “Think business in the front, party in the back,” said Andy, with a perfect “brand mullet” analogy. To formulate your own “brand mullet,” Andy had some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Putting hearts into it
  • Building the good
  • Consumerism with conscience
  • Authentic action (or consumers sniff you out — “A no bullshit factor,”  Andy)
  • Be more social
  • Authenticity + Credibility + Storytelling = Growth (Tim Horton’s, Newman’s Own and Bell Let’s Talk were favourite examples)

The discussion wouldn’t have been complete without his own lessons behind RBC’s own Blue Water Project, which went deep into water and had a big impact on the environment and RBC’s CSR:

  1. Do the good.
  2. Integrate the good.
  3. Market the good.
  4. Measure the good

Following with other really interesting best practices and case studies, a favourite lesson of Andy’s for me was to create platforms, not promos… and to get social or get out of the way. There’s a cost to getting it wrong. If you’re not authentic, consumers move onto the next. If you get it right, the halo effect is huge. So, Andy had delegates ask themselves:

  • What is my company’s sense of social?
  • Does it align with my own principles?
  • Who owns budget and spend and how do we secure money to make an impactful play?
  • Are your varying initiatives funded efficiently?
  • Has it become inherent to the brand?

The root of these questions could be wrapped up into four mantras: Be authentic. Be natural. Be truthful. Be patient. Leaving the delegates with these lasting words, the questions flurried and Andy closed with good news stories that solidified understanding of brand DNA for the 2011 Canadian Sponsorship Forum.