By: Mary Ann McLaughlin, Managing Partner
More than any other time of the year, this is the season where significant attention is paid to how and where you spend your money. Holidays, taxes, budgets, resolutions and the economic and political outlooks bring the dollar into focus. Consumerism is at its peak and now more than ever, organizations need to understand what that means to them.
Consumerism by definition has a few different meanings. It represents the ideology that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever greater amounts. It also represents the activism that protects and informs the consumer (truth in advertising, product guarantees, etc.). And moreover, it speaks to the fact that in America, it is really not “one man - one vote”, it is “one dollar – one vote.”
The truth is that a purchase of your product or service is a vote for your company, your management team, and your brand. The buyer is becoming ever more aware of what an organization stands for, how they contribute to society and if their mission and values align with theirs. The consumer is becoming more aware and this “conscience consumerism” is expected to become main stream due to social media and therefore companies must be ready for the impact that will have. Think of Toms shoes, where one pair of shoes is donated for each shoe purchased. We have seen similar strategies with eye glasses and t-shirts. These organizations that have integrated marketing strategies with philanthropic goals are easy for a consumer to identify and to support. But what about companies that don’t have this type of strategy? How will they be affected? What is a consumer paying attention to?
There are two key areas that a consumer is paying attention to and in which organizations need to focus in order to align properly with this movement; Purpose and Leadership.
Studies show that companies who practice Conscience Consumerism perform 10 times better than those who do not.
In the words of Ed Freeman, Darden school of management professor “We need red blood cells to live (the same way a business needs profits to live), but the purpose of life is more than to make red blood cells (the same way the purpose of business is more than simply to generate profits).”
While making money is essential for the sustainability of a business, it is not the only or even the most important reason a business exists. Conscious businesses focus on their purpose beyond profit. Purpose activates us and motivates us. Conscious businesses provide us with this sense of meaning and purpose. By focusing on its deeper Purpose, a conscious business inspires, engages and energizes its stakeholders, employees, and customers. The right purpose fosters also the right culture.
Conscience leaders focus on the purpose of the organization and serve that first. They represent the values of the organization in every action they take and they ensure that they are developing their people to inspire, foster transformation and bring out the best in those around them. Conscience consumers research an organizations leadership. I recently had the pleasure of attending a speech given by YWCA Chicago CEO, Dorrie McWhorton, who enlightened me on the effort that many consumers are taking (and should take) to support companies with a purpose and the leadership that aligns with it. She shared a story that a group decided to support only African-American owned business for a year. It was documented in book titled Our Black Year. While not easy, it was a conscience choice. What was relatively easy and is becoming even simpler, is access to the information about a company, its purpose and its leadership.
What would consumers see when they research your organization? Will they see a diverse leadership team that embodies the core values you stand for? Can they see, understand and relate to your purpose? If you reflect on your organization’s mission, can you articulate what you are doing to support that mission?
A new wave of consumer is coming and leading organizations understand that a strategy with meaning is key to attracting the best talent and the best clients. At Butler Street, we work with companies to build not only a strategic plan with meaning that can be operationalized, we also help companies create a cultural plan to ensure their strategy has meaning and that the strategic initiatives will stick. Please click on CONTACT and let’s start the conversation.