What’s branding got to do with the future of Europe?

October 2014 What’s branding got to do with the future of Europe?

AIM's inaugural Brand Lecture took place on 30 September 2014. The guest speaker was British 'Brand Guru' Rita Clifton CBE. In his introductory remarks, Laurent Freixe, President AIM and CEO Europe of Nestlé, shared his vision for the European Union and the role that AIM and consumer brands can play to support the foundation of the European project.

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening and welcome to the first edition of the AIM Brand Lectures. 

I am particularly pleased with the subject of this first session: What’s branding got to do with the future of Europe? As a former marketer, I would say: a lot!

Personally, I am a strong believer in the European project as well as in the EU 2020 strategy of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The new Commission’s reinforced focus on jobs, growth and investment, on the digital agenda and on energy, including climate change, carries my full support. I am deeply convinced that if Europe stays true to its identity and values, in the long run it will continue to show leadership globally.

Heading Nestlé Europe since 2008, I have come to know the public debate about Europe quite well: heartless austerity, paralyzing bureaucracy, threat to national identity... these things pop up very easily, every day. Hard to believe that east of the European borders, people are at war for more Europe. Is Brand Europe a brand in crisis? Maybe.

Today’s perception of the EU does not reflect its merits and achievements. But on the positive side, at least it does not leave people indifferent anymore. So the question is: how can we get the message right on Europe? And is there a role for business to play in all this? I think yes, companies have a role to play, by actively supporting the foundation of the European project, which is, and has always been, sustainable value creation. 

One major thing that is hampering the economic recovery and putting at risk the future of our continent, is unemployment and especially youth unemployment. Beyond the critical issue of key social interrogations of the new generation, our long-term competitiveness depends on investments, innovation, digital & technological literacy. We need the young generation for that. If we don’t bring them on board, we don’t stand a chance to really shape the future of Europe to be relevant globally.

Economic recovery needs to be sustainable and inclusive; we need an all-of-the-society approach. AIM’s strategic plan is called Sustainable Growth through Trusted Brands. Each word is important but trust is paramount.  We need to do more and better every day to earn the trust of consumers. This would be a relevant motto for Europe, too.

Talking about AIM, the European Brands Association, allow me to say a few words on some of its initiatives, which ultimate objective is to build and keep trust:

  • AIM-PROGRESS is our responsible sourcing programme.  It supports companies’ efforts to ensure compliance, along the supply chain, with laws or voluntary standards on child labour, on the environment, on safety at work, or the Ruggie principles on human rights.  The International Labor Organisation and NGOs are represented on the AIM-PROGRESS Advisory Board, and we are proud of this.
  • We are also proud of the excellent cooperation we have with the European Consumers’ Organisation BEUC on ways to better inform consumers, based on common principles adopted three years ago.
  • For the last three years we have worked with the European associations of retailers and wholesalers and the European food and drink federation on a code of fair practice in commercial relations, called the Supply Chain Initiative. The Commission expressed its support in a Communication published in July.
  • Building on our AIM Charter on brands for health and well-being, adopted five years ago, we are about to launch a new initiative on ways brands can help nudge consumers to healthier and more sustainable lifestyles.  This will be the topic of our second Brand Lecture early next year and I hope you will join us again.
  • Consumer trust when purchasing online, especially across national markets, is still much too low.  Our Memorandum on Consumer Brands for a trusted digital marketplace has outlined a number of principles for businesses to apply, and recommendations for policy makers to help us further develop the digital market. 
  • Finally, and I referred to it earlier as it is a subject very close to my and Nestlé’s hearts: some of you may know about the Alliance for Youth launched by our company two weeks ago together with 200 of our business partners. 25% of young Europeans do not find work. I will propose to the Board of AIM in November to consider what contribution we can make to help address this unacceptable situation. We have a crucial role to play, as it’s here, in our companies, that employment is created.

Before we invite Rita to deliver the AIM Inaugural Brand Lecture, I’m delighted that Robert Madelin, in spite of all the demands on his time with the current changes, is here tonight to make a few introductory remarks.  I know that the subject of branding, including the branding of public institutions, occupied him in his earlier job as Director General for Health and Consumers as much as in his current one at DG Connect.

The floor is yours, Robert.

Robert Madelin offering his introductory remarks after Laurent Freixe

Rita Clifton delivering the inaugural AIM Brand Lecture

Rita Clifton

Laurent Freixe, Rita Clifton and Robert Madelin

Guests attending the Brand Lecture

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