We were hearing that Tesco has got to put in more [to society] because people think all we do is take out.” So said Tesco CEO Philip Clarke.

In our socially connected culture, brands are no longer what advertisers say they are they’re what friends, colleagues and families say they are. So it’s no wonder brands are so concerned about how they’re perceived - or that consumers are looking more closely at the way they behave.

Nielsen research found 66% of consumers want to buy brands with social programmes. Perhaps this is why Coca-Cola is aiming to create “work that matters and makes a difference in the world”.

This thinking was also evident at the 2013 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, where an unprecedented 12 out of 17 Grands Prix were awarded to campaigns with social or environmental purposes. The campaigns illustrated the dramatic impact brand behaviour can have on profit.

The Dutch Dela funeral insurance campaign - ‘Why wait until it’s too late? Say something beautiful today’ - encouraged people to say kind words about their loved ones, and turned Dela into one of Holland’s top 10 best-known brands while growing insured capital by 50%.

Meanwhile, another insurance brand - South Korea’s Samsung Life - created ‘The Bridge of Life’, placing ‘soothing and comforting’ words along the suicide-scarred Mapo Bridge. Result? 85% drop in suicides.

Fmcg brands can tap into societal purpose, too. The Titanium-winning Dove Real beauty Sketches boosted female self-esteem by comparing images of how women perceive themselves against how others see them, courtesy of an FBI sketch artist. Within two weeks, it had become the fourth most-shared ad of all time and received 73.4 million YouTube views. Powerful results.

Brits are cynical and prone to dismissing such campaigns as ‘cheesy’. Many instinctively know businesses wouldn’t invest without commercial gain. But when campaigns are capable of bringing families together, preventing suicides or boosting self-esteem, will consumers really care if commercial motives underpin the societal good?

Dom Robertson is MD of marketing communications agency RPM