Standing for something that means something...
Updated: Jan 4
If you highlight an entire page, you have effectively highlighted nothing.
I live in a community with a low level of diversity but I grew up in an area with high diversity, so from that standpoint I can see the effectiveness of being an advocate for certain societal issues differed depending on the context. It's not to say all issues can't be highlighted but there should be something to substantiate the discussion.
Our consumers expect us, as brands and business owners, to stand up for issues, to take the lead on some of the issues that matter to them but if the issues do not align with us, or they cannot be sustainable, they run the risk of appearing as though it was a 'bandwagon' or publicity calls.
70% of US consumers want to know what the brands they support are doing to address social and environmental issues and 46% pay close attention to a brand’s social responsibility efforts when they buy a product. (Markstein & Certus Insights 2019)
For example, I am a solopreneur, so while I would love to stand up for workers' rights, I may get laughed out of the discussion because I am not relatable, and while being a solopreneur, it's not a cause that I can sustain, hence I would look like I am jumping on the bandwagon of an issue. It's still important to me, so this may be something that I personally get active in supporting rather than my brand.
As a brand that is focused on community, creativity, and connection, I should choose how my brand would participate in issues that feel aligned with its core values.
But how do you find your purpose?
Try 5 why's, it's a trick I learned a while back, when something matters, ask yourself WHY 5 times, you will get closer to the core of the real meaning than the first or second why. For example:
1. Why creativity? 2. Creativity leads to new ideas 3. New ideas lead to innovation 4. Innovation leads to progress. 5. Progress leads to freedom, accessibility, and more ideas.
I value creativity because of what it leads to. But since mine is a simple ideas, lets look at something more complex. Let's say you are an investment firm, perhaps you value 1. making investing easy for your clients 2. because it leads to more money for your clients 3. more money equals more freedom for your clients 4. freedom leads to early retirement 5. retirement leads to enjoying the thing you love in life. > so you help your clients invest to lead them to a more enjoyable life.
Why you do what you do in business is how you find your purpose, so consider if it was not for the money, why would you do what you are doing? What would you tell your kids or grandkids is the bigger picture of why you work long hours and spend so much time at the office. Are you making the world a better place? Are you paving new roads for the future, are you creating a secure future for your kids?
Knowing what value and my purpose for myself and my brand (which may be two different things) will show where I should stand up and participate in societal issues.
64% of global consumers find brands that actively communicate their purpose more attractive. 62% want companies to take a stand on issues they are passionate about, and 52% say they are more attracted to buy from certain brands over others if these brands stand for something bigger than just the products and services it sells, which aligns with their personal values. (Accenture 2018)
So how do you make it mean something?
Taking a stand where it makes sense is the first place. If I were to see arts funding cut in schools, it would make sense for me to step up to the plate. If there is a mural project, it makes sense for my business to help sponsor it, or provide design.
When I saw the community feeling disconnected by covid and I began to worry about the health of our businesses, I worked to provide free advertising, tips + training online to help business owners promote themselves, Okotoks Tinting and I made stickers, I donated my design skills to the Grads of 2020 and provided a resource for business owners to connect and talk.
Not all brands need to stand up for everything, in fact, you may be more impactful by choosing what you can stand for and having a louder voice where it matters, while using your personal profile to champion issues that you care about that may not be a part of your overarching brand values.
Globally, 67% of people agree that it has become more important that the brands they choose make a positive contribution to society, beyond just providing a good service or product. This is the majority view in virtually all countries surveyed. (Ipsos 2017)
Make it matter, longer-term + sustainably:
Consumers became savvy about brands jumping on certain social trends (think MeToo and BLM), and the businesses that did something that was sustainable rather than grabbing media became far more trusted by consumers than those that just placed a black square on their profile.
If you are going to stand up for a cause, make sure you can make your decision impactful. Can you create more diversity in your company, on the leadership level, can you change the way you operate to be more inclusive, can you use your supply chain to prompt more environmental responsibility
How to know when to stand up:
Here are a few questions to ask yourself if your brand is considering standing up for a societal issue:
Does it align with your brand's values? Truly, if you can easily answer yes, then find your place in the conversation. If you hum and haw, consider if it truly reflects your brand
Can you make an impact or are you just making noise? Standing and shouting for change rarely makes it happen, can you provide a solution or options for the change and take those issues forward. This could be through the supply chain, core practices, lobbying or using your influence.
Does it affect your brand, employees, community or your brads mission?
Can you create a sustainable change, and not just a change for the week, month, or day. If you are fighting oil and gas, how deep does that issue lay in your business? If you want to go green consider the impacts and how you can sustainably make a change and keep it. It's easy to change for a short period of time, diets are easy for a week, it's those that stay that see change.
Benefits of taking a stance:
The world wants unity and consumers want brands that care about them and the issues that matter to them. It creates unity within companies and unity for the consumer.
US consumers are more likely to have a positive image of (89%), trust in (86%) and be loyal (83%) to brands that lead with purpose. Nearly eight-in-10 (79%) consumers surveyed say they feel a deeper personal connection to companies with values similar to their own. And 72% say they feel it is more important than ever to buy from companies that reflect their values. (Cone/Porter Novelli 2019)
From an employment perspective, knowing your brand's purpose helps attract and retain a workforce aligned with your brand's values.
There is a rise in people’s expressed importance to live life with a sense of purpose: 80% in 2016, 89% in 2017, 91% in 2018. (Enso 2018)
83% of Gen Z in the US consider a company’s purpose when deciding where to work. (Cone/Porter Novelli 2019)
84% of Millennials value meaning in day-to-day work (top priority for respondents), but only 53% of business leaders agree with that. (PwC 2016)
There will be greater expectations on businesses and brands going forward, it will be our role to choose where and when we can have an impact on society and the world we live in.