By Helen Hawkes. She is a lifestyle and business journalist as well as a Wellness Coach and a UNIFAM-qualified counsellor. Find out more here.
Blame disillusionment with global politics and mass market consumerism, or perhaps the fact that consumers have become more educated and empowered by the sharing of information through the internet or on platforms such as Twitter. But communicating how your brand cares isn’t an optional extra any more, it’s a sales imperative.
Heart, and ethics, matter. Today’s consumers want to buy off a brand or a company they trust, or respect or, at least, one that makes an effort to care about something else besides profits.
Polluting the planet (big coal), exploiting vulnerable workers (#whomademyclothes is the hashtag that fashion company scandals over slave labour birthed) and even lying to boost sales (Volkswagen, which admitted cheating emissions tests) is a PR and profit nightmare.
In contrast, telling a story that demonstrates that, unlike the 80s, greed isn’t good, will win you discerning and cashed-up consumers.
Entrepreneur Richard Branson hasn’t been untouched by scandal, such as the 2006 investigation into price-fixing attempts between Virgin Atlantic and British Airways. But his multitude of goodwill initiatives and well-intentioned business ones…a multimillion dollar prize to an individual or group for a design to reduce greenhouse gases; a mobile app, desktop blog and fitness tracker that helps increase employee health are well-publicised winners. Yes, there’s only one Richard Branson, there’s a hundred other ways to show – and tell – you care.
NRMA Insurance’s new campaign focuses on the willingness of all Australians to help (just like the NRMA, “help is who we are”).
Buy-one-give-one shoe brand TOMS and Priceline’s Sisterhood Foundation which donates money to women who are affected by serious illness, are also capitalising, in different ways, on customers’ desire to do business with a company that cares.
Global supermarket giant ALDI, whose stores had an estimated combined turnover of US$82 billion in 2015, has gained label-conscious and middle-class spenders with its commitment to its organic and additive-free ranges that are good for you and good for the planet.
So what’s your point of difference? Do you donate a portion of your profits to a community cause? Do you allow your staff time off work to volunteer? Are your products beneficial to the environment or, at least, ones that do no harm? Do you have a company program that puts the emphasis on employee well-being? Are you working towards solving a problem that will benefit humanity? Or do you make a real difference in customers’ lives? Yes? Well, it’s time to use clever communications, including social media, to tell the whole world.