What does your brand stand for? That’s what your customers want to know.
In recent years, there has been a lot to divide people both physically and emotionally.
Political figures and world events, the COVID-19 pandemic, social injustice, the climate crisis – all have had their impact. In addition, encapsulating these issues – and our responses to them – in as few characters as possible on social media means that complex issues are increasingly distilled into black or white soundbites, intensifying the division.
A recent survey by Sprout Social found that 80% of people believe that society is more fractured than ever before; 72% of those surveyed blame our political leaders, while 55% blame social media.
What the same survey also shows is that people are increasingly looking to business brands to reunite society.
Expectations towards businesses are high.
- Almost half of consumers (49%) expect brands to bring people together towards a common goal
- 72% want businesses to be positive contributors to society
- 64% want to see businesses use their power to help people
- 48% believe brands should raise the moral standards for others
It would seem that people are looking to brands, big and small, to act as leaders in our society (in fact, 43% of the people questioned in the Sprout Social survey agreed with this).
Consumers want to spend their money where it makes a difference and where it reflects positively on their own values.
What are your values?
It’s for this reason that your values as a business are a strong starting point to help you define what your business stands for. Hopefully, these are already embedded into your brand identity, but you may need to do some work if that isn’t currently well-defined.
If you’re a small business owner, think about what matters to you personally. Why did you start your business? What impact do you want your business to make in the world? What do you want your business to be known for?
If you’re part of a larger organisation, what are the common threads that run throughout your business and bring people together? How does the business make the world better in some way?
The answers to these questions should give you some insights into what drives your business, the people in it and the people you attract to it.
You can’t pay lip service to your values – they’re not buzzwords but guiding beliefs to run your business by, to drive action and unite people. They should encourage positive behaviour and help everyone in your organisation to make decisions that serve the greater good.
Every time an opportunity comes up, you should be able to ask, “Does this align with our values of X, Y or Z?” If the answer is no, then it’s not the right fit for your business. If the answer is yes, then it could be worth exploring.
How does your brand behave?
Consumers are looking at how brands behave, including yours.
This extends from the experience of employees within your company to the suppliers you choose or the brands you team up with.
Your target audience will want to see that your brand puts its values into action.
You can’t claim integrity and then use suppliers who exploit their workers, or say you plan to invest in the local community and then outsource halfway around the world.
People can sniff out insincerity or hypocrisy from a mile away! They’re also savvy about spotting unethical practices such as greenwashing.
Sometimes sticking to your core values will necessitate tough decisions. You may have to walk away from something because walking away is the right thing to do, even if it costs your business money.
But your customers will notice, they’ll see you standing by your values, and they’ll thank you with their loyalty.
This is truer now than ever before. People have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic with shifted priorities.
Research from IBM in 2020 found that 40% of consumers now see themselves as “purpose-driven”, meaning that they actively seek out companies that align with their values, especially on issues such as sustainability.
A consumer survey in September 2021 found that, prior to the pandemic, 69% of people preferred to buy from companies with ethical sourcing strategies in place. Post-pandemic, this figure has leapt to 82%.
Indeed, more than half of consumers (53%) say they would never buy from a brand again if it was accused of working with unethical suppliers.
Knowing this, your brand needs to behave in a way that aligns with its values.
Your customers will quickly spot if what you say and what you do are mismatched. They’ll also recognise if you appear to be piggybacking on an issue for profit rather than authenticity (as happened in 2017 when Pepsi launched its ill-advised “Live for Now” campaign).
What cause(s) does your brand support?
As we can see, today’s consumers want businesses to be philanthropic. In fact, instead of donating money to causes, shoppers – especially those under 40 – want to be able to give back to society through the brands they shop with.
One study found that 91% of consumers are likely to switch to a brand that supports a good cause; 92% said they’d choose to buy a product with a social or environmental benefit, given the opportunity.
This is why a growing number of businesses are choosing to publicly support specific causes, making them an integral part of what the brand stands for.
Supporting a cause in this way is about more than donating money, although this can be part of your cause marketing strategy. You might also take steps to raise awareness about an issue, give a not-for-profit exposure, donate products or services, and more.
Again, knowing your brand values should help you pinpoint a cause that you can support whole-heartedly and that will resonate with your target audience.
Otherwise, you could fall foul of one of the pitfalls of cause marketing: if it doesn’t make sense in terms of your brand, people may write it off as performative rather than genuine, i.e., that you’re trying to increase your social standing rather than actually caring about the issue.
So, what cause feels like a good fit for your brand?
Standing for something meaningful has many benefits
There are many reasons to stand for something in business, not least because it’s the right thing to do.
As individuals, we can all feel disempowered sometimes – we know positive changes are needed in the world but ask ourselves, how much difference can one person make?
Businesses that stand for something offer a platform for people to come together, to amplify their impact and challenge the status quo. This is a huge draw to potential customers and potential employees alike.
Research shows that 70% of employees say that their sense of purpose is largely defined by work; 63% want more opportunities for purpose in their day-to-day responsibilities. Being part of a business that stands for something can provide this in spades, giving people a shared purpose and boosting retention.
And as for customers, we’ve seen that they’re actively looking for brands that share their values and help them make a difference in some way. Stand for something genuinely meaningful and your business will find its tribe.< Back to Blog