We are all selfish. Is this bad?
In a super-connected world, time and attention is scarce. If a brand does not add value to MY interests, MY needs and MY passions...it doesn't get too much of MY time and attention.
Research shows that people are becoming more discerning about the brands and organizations they choose to support through their purchases and advocacy.
Part of this is due to greater choice that consumers have in where to buy, but even more, it has to do with higher expectations to support companies that are genuinely doing good with focus on issues that connect back to an individual's personal needs, passions or concerns - such as MyHealth, MyEducation, MyEnvironment, MyCommunity.
We call this social selfishness.
Consumers will often pay a premium for goods and services, where beyond fulfilling a specific product need, the alignment to values and purpose is particularly strong. A firm called Traction recently ran a small experiment in San Francisco, selling lemonade. When presented with the exact same product (branded in two different ways) the majority of people opted to pay twice as much for the "brand" that supported their local community food bank.
In my family, Whole Foods Markets, Timberland, Toms, and The Honest Company are brands that win on loyalty, based largely on cause and values alignment. It's important for us to know that our purchases are supporting local small businesses (farms and suppliers), charities, and/or global causes such as climate change, gender equality, animal welfare and education. Our purchases represent votes of confidence on company purpose equal to fulfillment of need.
Other well recognized companies such as Unilever (multiple bands), Ikea, Solar City, and SalesForce have equally committed their companies to sustainable business practices as a strategy and inspire their employees, customers and partners to participate. These companies are leading in their industries on important metrics such as reputation, customer and employee loyalty and market share.
Issues in Context
Among the most high-profile social issues that brands are directing their resources and consumer influence to support and solve for are:
- Education, through STEM-based initiatives to increase capacity of skills that inspire youth to pursue careers in science, technology engineering and math.
- Gender Equality movements to advance progress of female empowerment, gender rights and equal pay opportunities.
- Climate Change initiatives to educate and reward people to take action to promote a more healthy, safe and clean environment.
These issues are high on the conscience of consumers today, supported by well organized public/private partnerships that connect the resources of corporations, the passions of people, the reach of governments/NGOs and power of celebrity to create movements measured by real world action and change, rather than success through hashtags.
Through mobile and other smart/connected devices, sophisticated companies are now able to extend their commitment to doing good by inviting and rewarding customer and employee participation tied to everyday behaviors and activities that are in themselves, rewarding:
- Exercise (log runs, walks, bike rides, gym workouts);
- Drive without texting or talking on the cell phone;
- Vaccinate or seek regular health check-ups;
- Conserve personal water/energy use in the home or in the car (eco-living);
- Volunteer in local community or attend community meetings;
- Advocate for a cause or issue;
The rewards offered can be in the form of discounts on products, access to entertainment content (through corporate sponsorships with music, sports and fashion), scholarships, access to technology, donations, etc.
Rewarding good behavior that improves the health, education, economic opportunity and happiness of employees and consumers - is real world change that matters. It's more than "lipstick cause marketing." It's about using social investment as an advantage.
When a company invests in its employees and customers - they are in turn rewarded through loyalty, advocacy and purchases. This is the best form of authentic, measurable marketing.