LONDON: Although the world faces huge challenges, ranging from ending extreme poverty to climate change, brands and marketers can make a difference by using technology, argues Keith Weed, Unilever's chief marketing and communications officer.

Reflecting on the recent Davos summit in Switzerland, which unusually placed technology at the heart of its discussions, he said in an article for Marketing Magazine that brands have the power to make a real impact because they engage with people all the time.

With the world becoming ever-more connected, brands have a responsibility and are especially well-placed to help deliver solutions to the world's problems, he said.

"Businesses and brands that fail to change how they operate, and fail to recognise the opportunity through technology to speed up positive impacts, are not seeing the bigger picture.

"This is not a moral issue, it's an economic one, so we must find a way to build a more sustainable world to ensure that companies like ours will continue to serve people and improve lives for another 100 years," he said.

By seeking to improve direct engagement with consumers, brands have the power to make a real impact and mobile is the "obvious starting point" in that endeavour.

By way of example, he pointed to the "Next Drop" campaign, which featured in Unilever's Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards.

This "life-changing" initiative uses mobile technology to inform subscribers in Indian cities about when water will next flow in the pipes in their homes.

Weed contended that this and other examples may not sound as "sexy" as a drone that can navigate obstacles or a fridge that can order your milk, but "they are practical and scalable examples of how technology can make a difference to lives".

Above all, everyone needs to start thinking about brands as "citizens", he said, so that brands have a “responsibility to promote, share, create exposure and help to make change”.

Data sourced from Marketing Magazine; additional content by Warc staff