In today’s climate of intense customer activism powered by nimble mobile and social technologies, brands must now define and lead with their social purpose in ways that build customer trust, loyalty, and sales.
Yet many organizations miss an element that’s critical to building an authentic community of brand ambassadors: their employees. In fact, 54% say their company’s purpose is not clearly conveyed to all employees.
The most innovative brands have already figured out that internal storytelling and employee activation is just as important as traditional external consumer-focused efforts. More than a paycheck, employees want a sense of purpose, pride, and impact, so it’s key that a company’s mission statement be brought to life and not left to die in the employee handbook.
Here are 5 benefits a company can enjoy by clearly defining and articulating its social purpose both internally and externally:
1. Increased brand advocacy from employees with corresponding reputational benefits. According to the Society for Human Resources Management, in companies with strong sustainability programs, morale was 55% better, business processes were 43% more efficient, public image was 43% stronger, and employee loyalty was 38% better. Tweet this
2. An increased ability to attract top candidates. For example, Net Impact found 80% of 13-25 year olds want to work for a company that cares about its impact, and more than half said they would refuse to work for an irresponsible corporation. Tweet this
3. Better content and quality of engagement. Here’s what Neil Gunn, Digital Strategy Advisor at World Wildlife Fund UK says about inviting employees to share their voice: “The theory is that people who have the stories to tell are on the ground. If you really are going to do social well, you need to make the connection with those who have the story to tell.” Tweet this
4. Increased productivity, satisfaction, and retention of current employees. PwC’s ‘Managing Tomorrow’s People’ Report found 86% of Millennials would consider leaving an employer if its social responsibility values no longer matched their expectations. Tweet this
The imperative to seamlessly share your brand’s purpose is clear, and doing so requires thoughtful work to integrate your company’s corporate, CSR, sustainability, and Foundation work into a story that’s easy to understand, join, and share.
Learn how to define and share your social purpose in ways that mobilize employees and customer communities to build your reputation and social impact with you. Join us at the 2014 We First Brand Leadership Summit, Oct 7-8, in Los Angeles.
Written by Dana Byerlee, VP of Marketing at We First.
In January of this year, Edelman released their annual Trust Barometer Report and distilled the 2014 learning down to one single phrase: “Business to lead the debate for change.” It’s in this context that three recent strategic moves by major brands reveal what large brands must do to lead our future.
1. RISK MITIGATION: This week Chick-fil-A announced that they will commit to using antibiotic-free chickens within five years. While some commentators have questioned why it takes five years to make such an adjustment in terms of their production, the point remains the same: Consumers had voiced their concerns loud enough, for long enough, that the company was forced to respond. Chick-fil-A’s president, Dan Cathy, is focused on his customers and “using the highest quality ingredients”. Obviously, what leadership had in mind was to maintain consumer goodwill, loyalty, and sales at a time when the fast food industry is facing increasing scrutiny in the context of obesity, health care, and nutrition concerns. By committing to antibiotic-free chickens they are mitigating the risk that this growing body of consumer activists will use their social media tools in increasingly effective ways to damage the company’s reputation.
2. REPUTATION ENHANCEMENT: Last week the CEO of CVS Caremark announced that they would no longer sell tobacco products through their network of 7,600 stores. While much was made of the immediate financial costs to the company, the strategy behind it was clear. As the CEO, Larry J. Merlo, explained, “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.” The incongruity between being a health care company and selling tobacco products may seem self-evident, but for too long these inconsistencies have gone unnoticed, unchecked, or unaddressed as brands focused on a ‘profit for profit’s sake’ mentality. Yet, by shifting away from selling tobacco products, CVS Caremark not only gets a first mover advantage, which will continue to pay dividends over the long term, but they have established their credentials to lead the healthcare debate in the future. As such this is a smart strategic in light of growing social crises such as obesity, chronic diseases, and the growing burden on the health care system.
3. TRANSPARENCY – This week we saw the announcement from Kellogg’s that they would make a commitment towards sourcing labeling for the harvesting of palm oil that is used in their products. The move would protect endangered animal species, as well as indigenous peoples and in doing so, they demonstrated a fresh commitment to transparency in the face of rising consumer activism that was most notably seen in recent years with consumer protesting against the harvesting of palm oil by Nestle. Kellogg has demonstrated its awareness that brands can no longer hide behind labels on packaging, entertaining marketing, or empty CSR promises, as consumers armed with the web, social media, and smart phones can easily expose brand duplicity through their own networks. This, in turn, can lead to costly damage to the company’s reputation, a risk to its social license to operate, and a limitation on how inclined its customers are to promote the brand and its products to others.
A lot of buzz has been generated by the decision of CVS to stop selling cigarettes in its 7,600 stores nationwide. The response has been evenly split between those remarking on how much it will cost CVS in lost revenue and those who recognize the need for CVS to align what they sell with the fundamental health care proposition behind CVS Caremark. Yet few have recognized what an important opportunity this represents for CVS to not only lead its industry as the healthcare market evolves, but also to shape culture at large.
As CVS Caremark CEO, Larry Merlo, states above, they are the first pharmacy chain to do so and, as such, have instantly established important credentials in the healthcare space that will pay great marketing dividends over the long term.
Obviously CVS has recognized the clear incongruity between promoting healthcare and selling cigarettes, but it has also observed the market share gain and sales growth earned by purposeful industry leaders such as Unilever (Sustainable Living), Starbuck’s (Shared Planet) and Chipotle (Food with Integrity). Merlo acknowledges as much when he states that CVS is the first pharmacy brand to ‘step up and take this action,’ almost challenging his rivals to follow suit.
This opens up a powerful conversation between the alignment of products sold and a brand’s core values in the context of pressing and growing social crises for which brands are increasingly being held accountable, such as public health, diabetes, and obesity, and as some commentators noted, the candy aisle could be next.
This is the start of a very lengthy and difficult conversation for CEO’s and CMO’s that must rationalize their social responsibility with their duty to shareholders or as Merlo explains, in their case it was simply ‘the right thing to do.’
That very sentiment has underscored the rise of purposeful marketing evidenced by some of the world’s largest corporations, and a growing number of social enterprises such as TOMS, Warby Parker and B Corp-certified entrepreneurs. No matter their size, these brands are responding to the undeniable demands for new levels of authenticity, transparency, and accountability in terms of the social responsibility of brands.
Yet such decisions also represent very good business. By responding to customer expectations, companies mitigate the risk to their social license to operate, enhance their reputation, and drive consumer loyalty goodwill and sales. Additionally, they create a brand story based on values they share with those customers who in turn can use social media to amplify the company’s good work. CVS provides a great demonstration of this with their dedicated twitter page and hashtag: #CVSquits.
CVS is also rising to the challenge of becoming a leader in its sector as socially responsible brands play an ever increasingly role in pressing public debates like health. This move and those that no doubt, will follow it, give CVS and its corporate officers the chance to become spokesmen and women for the coming healthcare movement that must address the demands of a growing population and persistent chronic diseases. We have seen other brands like Starbucks lead discussions around job creation, same sex marriage and political gridlock, Chipotle fuel the debate around sustainable agriculture, and Unilever lead the charge on sustainable business practices.
CVS is stepping up to become a healthcare leader that is well positioned to shape culture that in turn will build its business. The short term costs are real but the long-term reputational and competitive advantage gains are far more valuable as the brand leverages its first-mover advantage and positions itself as a model of what responsible pharmaceutical and health care should look like in the future.
Find out more about how to position your company as a purposeful social brand by
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Simon Mainwaring is the founder of We First, a leading brand consultancy that provides purpose-driven strategy, content, and training that empowers companies to lead business, shape culture, and better our world.