CB100: top takeouts from brand DNA to augmenting actions

Our inaugural study of the world’s most conscious brands has identified some unique insights into how consumers feel about brands through this new multidimensional conscious lens.

While the reasons for each brand’s success in the ranking are unique, four overarching themes emerge among the best performing conscious brands.

The brands people can’t live without have changed dramatically

2020 was a year that changed what we value. The rankings in the Conscious Brands 100 are unashamedly a reflection of those changing attitudes. Indeed we are partly assessing brands for their level of ‘responsiveness’ to individual needs and collective culture, and not purely on the basis of backward-looking brand equity.

The brands that perform most strongly are ‘the new essentials’—essential both for supporting us through the toughest of times and for satisfying our most fundamental needs. Hence we see brands that excel in the fields of communication, convenience, human connection and entertainment—and of course mental and physical health.

Our top 10 is a timely mix—and it will be fascinating to see if brands from industries like big pharma—which prior to 2020 were amongst the lowest of the low in terms of categories inspiring trust—can sustain the ‘Covid bump’ they’ve enjoyed.

It is also equally inspiring and surprising to see how rapidly some brands have managed to play a credibly ‘conscious’ role in our lives; for example, just look at how highly Headspace ranks in the global list, how well Tesla does despite other mobility brands struggling, and how quickly brands like Beyond Meat, Glossier and Oatly have gained a place in people’s hearts at a local market level.

The best brands have authentic ‘conscious-ness’ in their DNA

The world’s most successful conscious brands are the ones that demonstrate they are conscious in a way that is authentic and true to their brand DNA.

Microsoft, for example, uses its technology in unique and imaginative ways to help people solve the world’s problems. while Disney uses its storylines and hero characters to champion diversity. Also there is Dove from Unilever, which has demonstrated a long-term focus on real beauty and has shown how powerful this idea can be across their comms, packaging and social media in multiple markets.

These brands avoid tokenism and ‘wokewashing’ by taking actions which link directly back to the brand’s true DNA, helping them act consciously in ways that are unique to them. This instinctively creates a more authentic, differentiated and believable connection with consumers.

The most conscious brands take action across all aspects of the business

The world’s most conscious brands embrace being conscious in every aspect of what they do. demonstrating this across all touch points and experiences across their business. whether it be with their employees, their suppliers, with customers, within a community, in society and the world as a whole.

Internally, they take actions to help their company be more conscious, contributing above and beyond to make the world a better place. Microsoft employees, for example, donated $221m to non-profits in 2021 and volunteered 750,000 employee hours to support good causes, in the US alone.

Externally, the most successful conscious brands are conscious in their actions across all facets of their business, with actions that help specific people, support communities and do good in the world.

Conscious brands tell more powerful stories

The most conscious brands communicate what action they are taking. They regularly report progress on their conscious agenda and initiatives, both internally and externally. They create a common brand voice and consistent message to everyone, internally and externally across the world.

In response to the Covid crisis many have been drawn to including stories of their conscious actions in their marketing. Some however, are fearful of putting their heads above the parapet and getting it wrong. They have seen how unforgiving people can be and how easy it is to get ‘cancelled’.

However, those that build their conscious messaging into the campaigns align their actions with what they believe they can contribute uniquely and reap the rewards. These campaigns are the ones that again, stay true to the brand's core DNA.

Several of the top 10 conscious brands such as Google, Disney and Netflix are also using campaign stories to champion social change around diversity and on sustainability, and they are helping to raise awareness of these important issues around the world.

Read the full report and discover the Conscious Brands 100