Prosocial branding: unleash a huge force for good in the world

Introducing another of Sustainable Brands Barcelona’s speakers, pro-social branding pioneer Mark Woerde talks about how behind consumers are people, and how they are now demanding more from the brands they support. 

#SB16bcn: Sometimes advertising and marketing get bad press. How can these disciplines help in the construction of a better world?

Mark Woerde: Well, the prosocial branding concept that I like to promote is based on a very simple insight that was derived from a global study I was able to conduct. In the past it seemed that marketing was mainly focused on fulfilling hedonistic needs, but this study found that people are waiting for brands to help them help others. Helping others gives people meaning and that’s so desired these days. Who doesn’t want to live a meaningful life? So because of that, people are eager to embrace brands that open up their altruistic hearts. And these altruistic brands, or prosocial brands as I like to call them, have the potential create a huge force for good in the world. Just imagine what would happen if the nearly €500 billion spent on advertising each year were used to make the world a better place through marketing, which also helped brands grow.

Research shows that it’s no longer about survival of the fittest, but of the kindest brands

In your book, “How Advertising Will Heal The World and Your Business”, you include an introduction for CEOs, marketeers, advertising professionals and NGOs. Why these four?

We need all four stakeholders to realize maximum positive impact on the world and on businesses. But these four are not always aligned since they all come from different backgrounds, have different primary objectives, and speak different languages. When talking to CEOs, I like to explain the changed business paradigm: that research shows that it’s no longer about survival of the fittest, but of the kindest. To marketeers I like to talk about how much altruistic consumer needs have impacted branding strategies. To my peers in the ad industry I like to talk about the new breed of prosocial creative ideas we need. And last but not least, NGOs can and should be included in the equation because many of them have a deep understanding of what the world needs and they can bring the solutions to the table that the businesses can embrace in their missions.

It is especially interesting that you include NGOs in theis group of stakeholders. Why the collaboration between the private sector and the non-profit sector is important for tackling social and environmental issues?

I know from experience that NGOs can tend to be a little hesitant to partner with companies with commercial interests. The culture of a typical NGO is certainly different from that of a business. But, as long as both sides have confidence in the others’ commitment to a prosocial goal, this shared value can work as a perfect bridge, allowing both groups to benefit.

Can you tell us a little, about the Sweetie Case, the project that Lemz, your agency, developed with the NGO Terre des Hommes?


The Sweetie campaign helped catch sexual predators and change legal frameworks

She was the virtual webcam girl that trapped 1,000 online predators in 10 weeks. Sweetie was a tool to identify predators, but also a tool we used to put Webcam Child Sex Tourism on the world agenda. With over 1 billion people who saw the Sweetie in the news, she succeeded and created huge results: children in the Philippines were rescued from situations in which they were exploited via webcams, laws in several countries were created to outlaw Webcam Child Sex Tourism, and predators in dozens of countries were arrested based on our investigation. It was an incredible adventure and I’m looking forward to sharing some of its key learnings on stage at #SB16bcn. It’s an interesting and hopefully inspiring example of how the creative industry can bring solutions that make the world better.

Sweetie is an interesting and hopefully inspiring example of how the creative industry can bring solutions that make the world better.

I’m looking forward to this event because it’s a great opportunity to meet new and inspiring soul sibblings. And I hope to sharpen some new ideas and to charge my battery with the collective energy. Events like these bring inspiring, creative, heart-driven people together, creating a sort of pressure cooker of diverse ideas and perspectives. The possibilities are endless when that happens! The more events there are like this, the more momentum there is for the creative industry to move in what I believe is the right direction. Magic. You never know, but sometimes it happens.



Mark Woerde is co-founder and Chief strategista at LEMZ, which,as its website reads: is an acronym for Liquid Encapsulated Melt Zone. It refers to the chemical phenomenon that occurs when a special combination of elements are brought together under the right conditions. That combination creates something greater than the sum of its parts. It’s when strategists, concept developers, creative producers, and clients work together in the right flow to formulate strategies, develop concepts, carry out production, manage content, and steer campaigns.


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