Why Your Brand Should Be A Force For Good
Business is simple. Buy low, sell high. Find a market opportunity and serve a need. Create the right processes, hire the right people, and utilize the best technology. Boom. You’re off and running. Work hard to keep your competitive advantages. Stay ahead of the competition. Hire the right agency. Retain the best employees. Listen to the right consultants. Stay true to your mission statement. Perform a SWOT. Listen to more consultants. Revise your business plan. Evolve your brand and mission. Continue to stay ahead of the competition. Try to not get swallowed up by the next disruption. Read business books. Hire your competitor’s employees. Buy a smaller, but more agile competitor. Think about selling. Layoffs? Restructure. Hold the fort. Listen to your attorneys. Listen to your finance people. Strategize.
It’s not simple.
There are thousands of books from thousands of people who can’t wait to tell you their secret sauce. Their formula. Their 10 steps to a winning strategy.
In reality, there is no such thing. All problems, businesses, product lines, and industries have too many complexities to fit neatly into another’s retroactive secret formula to success.
However, there are a few constants:
Clever marketing can’t hide an inferior product. Organizations with purpose tend to outperform their purposeless counterparts. Brand matters. Profit trumps revenue. Good marketing campaigns revolve around conflict, and great marketing campaigns give voice to those conflicts and ultimately resolve them.
Another constant is organizations must be sustainable. And to be sustainable, an organization must be a force for good. It’s counterintuitive to our view of business, but it’s vital.
I’m not saying every firm should be a non-profit, but capitalism has evolved and so have the expectations of brands. When Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, wrote The Wealth of Nations in the late 1700s, he did so under the belief that businesses would act morally. We’ve found that to not always be the case. Therefore our understanding of capitalism has evolved.
To be sustainable over time, brands must maintain market position as well as recruit and retain employees. From the late 1800s to the 1980s, employees weren’t empowered and consumers didn’t have access to the resources needed to make informed decisions.
But the world changed. For a brand to realistically recruit and retain employees today, employees need to believe that what they do matters. It’s not enough to collect a check. They have to stay motivated, and a big part of that is believing that what they do has a positive effect on the world.
Moreover, consumers don’t buy solely based on price and convenience. Many consumers make purchasing decisions that align with their aspirational selves. Brands are discovering this the hard way. It’s no longer enough to have a good product. It’s no longer enough to pay a fair wage. It’s no longer enough to be first to market.
And we're not alone in this mindset. We like to think that we’re a force for good. We've tried to make our little corner of the world better. More importantly, the broader business world is moving in this direction. The Guardian published a piece on big brands faking good will and the price paid with consumers. The New Yorker documented the rise of B Corp brands, those companies that pledge to achieve social goals as well as business goals. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, spoke with Inc. about how conscious capitalism is one of the secrets to his success. We’re in the midst of a tide change.
Consumers expect more. Brands that are forces for good will outperform and out recruit brands that aren’t.
Maybe this isn’t a fair burden to place on organizations, but it’s the new reality. Being a force for good isn’t just for non-profits anymore. It’s being embraced by brands big and small. It can’t be faked. It can’t be viewed as a cost of doing business. It has to be real.
Maybe I’m an idealist, but I kind of like the fact that for brands to have real longevity, they have to transition from a simple economic entity to a contributing member of society. They have to transition from a parasitic mentality, to a symbiotic entity that’s fully part of the cycle of life.
I think Adam Smith would be pleased.