Yesterday we launched our Triple G study, a broad piece of research based on the perception of 12,000 consumers of 120 brands. Inspired by the Triple A financial rating that measures a company’s hard capital, our Triple G rating seeks to put a value on a company’s “soft capital” – comprised of three dimensions: good actions, good engagement and good recommendation.

Three fascinating speakers presented at our event this morning, representing three Triple G-winning brands: Mark Price, managing director of Waitrose and deputy chairman of the John Lewis Partnership; Giles Turrell, CEO at Weetabix; and Alison Sagar, UK marketing director at PayPal. They shared their secrets to help our audience understand what makes a Triple G winner.

 

John Lewis Partnership, incorporating Waitrose

_8668119900Mark started his presentation with an anecdote from his years of being a London commuter. He said over the course of two years, he won over a rather fearsome ticket clerk at his local station by being friendly and getting to know her. She, in turn, brought him a cigar back from a holiday in Cuba. It was this “random act of kindness”, said Mark, that changed his opinion of the company she worked for – despite the late and crowded trains. This ability for a single member of staff to change the perception of an entire organisation is what drives the ethos of the John Lewis Partnership. Staff ownership empowers every partner that comes into contact with customers on a day-to-day basis – and “doing good” resonates with both parties. Happy workers = happy customers.

Mark spoke about two guiding principles: a clear moral compass, and a recognition that the Partnership “isn’t perfect”. He said this makes difficult decisions much easier – such as when traces of pork were discovered in a Waitrose beef product at the height of the horsemeat scandal. Despite the fact it involved a limited range that had been sold some nine months previously – and knowing any comment would be blown up by the media, eager for new horsemeat angles – there was no question that Waitrose should come clean. A statement was made, and Mark wrote to every customer on the Waitrose database. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive.

One of the most revealing hints as to what makes the Partnership “good” came when Mark talked passionately about the need for government to support businesses to do good in their local communities for the benefit of UK plc. “To have a healthy high street you need to have a healthy back street,” he said. One gets the feeling a lot of John Lewis “good” goes on behind closed doors – the definition of doing the right thing when no one is actually looking.

 

Weetabix

_0475558865For over 80 years, Weetabix has been making breakfast for British families. And Giles Turrell said its core values – providing a healthy and nutritious breakfast at a reasonable price – have stood the test of time.

Yet its popularity with UK consumers doesn’t stop with its heritage – it also makes really really good products, and innovates constantly to keep the brand fresh. It is this emphasis on product, combined with a loyal workforce (generations of the same families have worked in the business) and its farmers help to make the brand “good”. All wheat is sourced within a 50-mile radius of its factories and that supply chain is vital to creating the nation’s healthy and nutritious breakfast.

Another really key point that came across is the time Weetabix spends investing in its customers. Giles says he personally goes into people’s homes to have breakfast with them, and chats to families to understand what they need from the Weetabix brand. And it is exactly that kind of engagement that drives customer perception of a “good” brand.

 

PayPal

_5467800861PayPal bucks the trend for beating up the financial services sector by winning one of the few Triple G awards – consumers love PayPal. Alison attributes this to two key success factors: the product, at the core of which are simplicity and security; and a focus on people and the culture of both employees and customers.

Technology sits at the heart of a great product, and Alison said the company is focused on how innovation in technology can improve payment processes to serve its two communities of customers: buyers and merchants. “Everything we do,” she said, “is about taking the friction out of paying and getting paid.”

PayPal, by the very nature of what it does, has little contact with consumers in person. But Alison talked about the company’s considerable investment in programmatic research to gather customer feedback and continually improve. Nevertheless, she said brands are often defined not by when things are going well, but when things go wrong and how they’re handled.

Thanks to all of our panellists for a lively and informative discussion. The full report, “The Brands Consumers Really Love, And Why”, can be viewed on the Good Relations Group website and contains further insight around the data.

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