Professor Alessandro Feri Participates in 17th Global Brand Conference in Scotland

JCU Marketing Professor Alessandro Feri recently co-organized and participated in the 17th Global Brand Conference held at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland. The theme of the conference was “Conscientious Brands: Making Sustainability and Responsibility Work.”

The conference is part of the Academy of Marketing’s Brand Identity and Corporate Reputation Special Interest Group and has been recognized as one of the premier academic conferences on branding globally. It consistently brings together top branding experts from around the world to discuss and advance branding research, theory, and application.

Alessandro Feri
Alessandro Feri

Tell us about the conference.
In light of increasing societal and environmental challenges, stakeholders today demand a higher level of conduct and integrity from organizations and their brands. Conscientious brands integrate conscience into their actions, focusing on creating value while considering all stakeholders’ perspectives to deliver transformative change. This approach includes sustainability, diversity, inclusion, and equality as deliberate acts. Through a series of keynote speeches, panel discussions, and workshops, the conference aimed to deepen our understanding of how brands can embed these values into their operations and strategies. The discussions were enriched by the contributions of numerous scholars and practitioners who shared their insights and experiences. By addressing the increasing interest in conscientious brands, the conference sought to contribute to ongoing discussions and inspire more brands to adopt practices that emphasize responsibility and sustainability. Overall, it was a highly engaging and enlightening experience that underscored the importance of brands acting with a sense of moral and social responsibility.

Tell us about your paper “Can a brand be conscientious? A study of consumer perceptions” that you presented at the conference.
I co-authored and presented the paper, “Can a brand be conscientious? A study of consumer perceptions” at the conference. This study aims to expand the emerging research theme of conscientious brands by examining their characteristics from a consumer perspective. To explore how consumers perceive conscientious brands, we conducted 25 in-depth interviews with UK-based consumers. Our findings suggest that consumers believe brands can indeed be conscientious if they embed their transformative purpose into everything they do, act with integrity, are committed to society and the planet, are open and transparent, and balance their stakeholders’ needs.

Consumers emphasized that such brands should have a strong purpose beyond profit-making, aiming to make a positive impact on the world. They also highlighted the importance of integrity, authenticity, and transparency in measuring a brand’s conscientiousness. However, there is a notable skepticism among consumers regarding the authenticity of many brands’ claims. To put it differently, actions speak louder than words. This paper contributes to the existing body of knowledge by providing an evidence-based consumer perspective on conscientious brands, complementing the managerial views that dominate current research. The insights from this study can help brands understand the importance of aligning their internal practices with their external messaging to build authentic conscientious brands.

How can conscientious brands impact sustainability?
Conscientious brands have a significant impact on sustainability by actively contributing to solving societal and environmental challenges. As the world faces increasing pressures in these areas, stakeholders now expect brands to go beyond merely acknowledging problems. Instead, they should work towards improving the quality of life and addressing environmental issues. The sustainability agenda, which balances the needs of people, planet, and profit, has become essential for brands to remain relevant. This involves more than just sharing positive stories; it requires brands to embed conscience into their actions and focus on creating broader value. Conscientious brands, much like individuals, can have moral agency and choose to act in ways that positively impact the world. For conscientious brands to truly benefit their organizations and stakeholders, they must embed conscience into their actions. By doing so, they can effectively contribute to a more sustainable and equitable world. The discussion on how best to achieve this continues, but the potential for conscientious brands to drive meaningful change is clear.

You were also one of the organizers of an interactive forum called “Regeneration: Leading with Conscience.” What was it about and what were the main ideas discussed?
I co-organized an event titled “Regeneration: Leading with Conscience,” which was held in conjunction with the 17th Global Brand Conference. This event was a collaborative effort between Edinburgh Napier University and the Medinge Group, an international think tank of brand experts whose purpose is to influence business to become more humane and conscientious. The forum aimed to facilitate a stimulating exchange of ideas, perspectives, and real-world experiences among conscientious leaders from various sectors, including the private, public, and third sectors in Scotland and beyond. Participants included academics and experts from the Medinge Group, who brought valuable insights into promoting ethical and conscientious leadership.

Through a series of case studies, panels, and Q&A sessions, we explored several critical themes ranging from conscientious leadership to developing sustainable, long-term returns. The event featured 16 speakers and panelists, including leaders from prominent organizations such as Edrington, Rabobank, Zero Waste Scotland, Harris Tweed, VegWare, and Visit Scotland. John Alexander, the leader of Dundee City Council, also contributed to the discussions. The event highlighted the importance of integrating ethical considerations into leadership and business practices. It emphasized that leading with conscience is not only about doing the right thing but also about building successful organizations that can sustain long-term positive impacts. Following the event, I was invited to join the Medinge think tank, an opportunity I was honored to accept.