Editorial: Doing well by doing good

Judie Lannon

A surprising number of people on Desert Island Discs have a fondness for Yale mathematics professor Tom Lehrer's zany satirical songs with such titles as 'The Old Dope Peddler', the last line of which is 'doing well by doing good'. Such is the wonder of the English language that the phrase is instantly recognised as satirical in the song but perfectly reasonable in the context of what many companies are now doing.

Unilever has been in the vanguard of sustainable marketing and in the lead article in this issue Keith Weed describes how they are directing their marketing skills to social purposes, recognising that there need not be a contradiction between achieving a social outcome and a healthy bottom line. What I found particularly intriguing was the resurrection of an ancient brand of my own childhood – Lifebuoy. Many fmcg companies have such brands tucked away in the attic whose lineage could be dusted off for modern use. Along with new technology brands that make daily activities faster, cleaner, healthier in developing markets, Lifebuoy's marketing in countries where infectious diseases are particularly contagious is teaching children to wash their hands. There is, of course, nothing new in this: Unilever's roots lie in Victorian crusaders for hygiene; and Americans were taught to brush their teeth regularly through the activities of Colgate for decades.