Three Lessons From the Immigration Ban That Every Brand Must Heed
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Stakeholders are increasingly aware of where companies stand on larger social issues affecting the world and are requiring the businesses they support to become responsible corporate citizens. What’s more, new media is empowering consumers and employees to engage in conversations with brands about their purpose and that, in turn, is transforming the role of the private sector. This acute attention to corporate values is forcing companies to reimagine their missions and presents an amazing opportunity for brands to distinguish themselves as a leader and force for good.
The recent executive order on immigration awakened responses both for and against the action in America and around the world, mobilizing brands to take a public stand on the pertinent global issue. Here are three key lessons from the immigration ban that every company should heed to strengthen their brand:
1) Engage with employees – Employees are critical to building long-lasting success and can provide key insights on how to build purpose and strengthen your brand. By engaging with employees to shape purpose you can not only build internal morale and attract top talent, but also improve employee loyalty and productivity.
An excellent example playing out right now is the amicus brief. Filed by over 125 tech companies including Google, Microsoft, Apple, Tesla, Facebook, and Netflix, the brief strongly opposes the ban and argues the constitutionality of the executive order. Employees encouraged their employers to take a stand on this issue that impacts the world and corporate culture in Silicon Valley, which has a history of embracing diversity and prides itself on attracting the best and the brightest from around the globe. By engaging with employees to take action in this massive social movement these companies not only strengthened internal solidarity and took action to secure business operations, but also contributed to a global cultural conversation and generated earned media attention.
2) Honor consumer input – Consumers are increasingly making their voices heard through social media and influencing large-scale purchasing behavior. If you want to foster and maintain customer loyalty and support, you must partner with those consumers to build a better brand and a better world.
A recent example of how consumer engagement changed corporate decisionmaking is the #DeleteUber movement that spread through social media. The hashtag started after the company was accused of trying to profit from immigration protests at JFK and was further fueled by CEO Travis Kalanick’s involvement on the presidential advisory committee. In response to the negative social media buzz, and after over 200,000 people deleted the app, the brand pledged $3 million to a fund focused on helping foreign employees fight immigration lawsuits and Kalanick resigned from the presidential committee. The key lesson here is that consumers want a better world, not just better widgets. And no matter how convenient and frictionless the Uber app was, consumers were happy to delete it if it’s CEO and practices are in opposition to their own core values.
3) Be proactive – In today’s politically charged and technologically connected world there’s heightened awareness about what companies are doing to contribute to larger cultural conversations. Those that take a proactive leadership role will be rewarded with consumer goodwill, loyalty and profits.
A company doing a great job of taking initiative to spark social transformation is Starbucks. Inspired by the executive order on immigration, the company’s CEO Howard Schultz pledged to hire 10,000 refugees in 75 countries over the next 5 years. This ignited discontent in some consumers, who spread the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks and questioned why the coffee maker wasn’t hiring unemployed U.S. citizens. Similarly inspired consumers in support of Starbucks’ efforts shared their own hashtag #BuyStarbucks. In response, the brand reiterated its previous commitment to hire 10,000 veterans by 2018. The wave of social media attention has not only increased Starbucks headlines, but may actually increase sales.
Stakeholders – from consumers to employees to shareholders – are becoming increasingly active and eager to support companies that share their beliefs, while they are also ready to oppose those that don’t. This speaks to the power of values and how, in today’s globally connected world, they can so easily translate into a hashtag that will trend across social media platforms everywhere. In essence, if you want to strengthen your brand you need to choose the values you stand for and act as the community architect to sculpt social change, which will ultimately scale your impact and bottom-line.