In 2018, a survey of global consumers determined that almost two-thirds of customers preferred to do business with companies that stood for a purpose. Consumers want a company that reflects their personal values and beliefs as opposed to organizations that do not. Here is the pandemic, social injustice and the roles brands need to play.

As 2020 comes to a close, how do you think the numbers have changed with clients, customers and others that we serve? With so many impactful events in the headlines, companies seem to be more and more involved in making statements and spurring change in the face of adversity.

Companies and brands have always tried to set the trend — but spurring change has become the new norm for businesses.

Understanding how your brand can make an impact is crucial to growing your business in today’s world. Take it from these experts who believe that the key to successful branding in 2021 will involve addressing the issues and pain points their customers face.

Brands Have a Responsibility

Companies can no longer sit by as the chaos of the world rages around them. Instead of ignoring unrest or adding to it, they strive to provide order and ease to their customers whenever possible. These efforts, on the part of businesses, helps to give back to the community, increases your customer base, and builds brand loyalty while you’re at it.

David Brier, the author of the book Brand Intervention and winner of countless awards in the field, takes this responsibility seriously. He stresses the need for humanitarian efforts and community outreach to be a part of brand management at all times.

“Brands need to stay in touch now more than ever,” Brier says. “Not to just say, “Hey, how are you doing?” in the hopes that it may result in a sale. Brands, like people, MUST care first, must be selfless first.”

“Say things that unite, that empower, that open eyes, ears and minds. If the words and messages that brands are saying don’t meet those criteria, then drop it, like a freakin’ hot potato.”

Actions Speak Louder than Words

While your brand should definitely address problems and say the right things, what your company does is much more important in the face of adversity. You can say all you want, but your words are meaningless if you don’t do anything about it.

Brier addresses the “do-nothing-attitude” as well. “We’ve gotten into a calm of hypersensitivity to words, with absurd levels of “political correctness.” For me, those who only look at words and ignore actions are shortsighted and frankly missing the boat, to put it nicely. I look at actions. Say whatever you want to, but your actions will tell the tale.

While some customers will always read into words too much, actions are undeniable. Saying you’re dedicated to helping inequality in your community without performing actions to meet that goal says a lot about your brand. Actions that serve a purpose represent much good for the positive side.

Genuine Brands Will Succeed

Donating a bunch of money to local companies is well and good, but is the action sincere? Additionally,  is the company simply “cutting a check,” or are they sincerely trying to make a difference? Still donate and give the funds — but sincerity and feeling will serve a much greater cause.

Eliza VanCort sheds some light on this subject. She is a Cook House Fellow at Cornell University and a prolific speaker on various topics addressing inequality and empowerment.

VanCort’s first book, A Woman’s Guide to Claiming Space: Stand Tall. Raise Your Voice. Be Heard — will be released in May 2021.

“It’s actually not a bad idea to “cut a check” to help various organizations,” she says. “Giving to The United Negro College Fund or Girl Up, if it’s a substantial donation, can make a longitudinal difference which changes lives. That said, if companies want to genuinely commit to making our world better, they must look inward.”

Is your company taking care of its own employees, especially during COVID-19 and the challenges it presents?

Are your hiring practices fair and diverse, and are you developing a positive culture that makes a difference? These are the adjustments that lead to successful brands.

The sincerity of words is also key to successful branding. If customers can tell you’re only publishing a statement to appease the masses or take advantage of buzzwords and trending issues, your reputation will take a major hit.

“Being seen as paying lip-service to life or death social justice issues, such as Black Lives Matter, in service of a brand’s bottom line, feels morally repugnant to many consumers and can indelibly harm brand integrity,” says VanCort. “The best way to avoid being seen as taking advantage of any given issue is to truly invest in making a difference, rather than trotting out slogans for the sake of optics.”

Something is Better than Nothing

The bottom line for brands today is that any form of positive action is better than ignoring issues entirely. Don’t let fear prevent you from speaking out by listening to the advice Eliza VanCort has for you.

“Many brands are truly wanting to engage in change-making, but they are fearful they might take a misstep. There are three things you can do to avoid making an error.

  • Firstly, you can hire an outside consultant to guide you.
  • Secondly, if a company truly commits to making a difference, and this commitment is not in the service of optics but in the service of making the world better for all, the chances of them misstepping are reduced substantially.
  • Finally, the work of making change is sloppy, but when we don’t all commit to doing it when we let the fear of making a mistake stop us from doing anything at all, we lodge a huge spoke in the wheel of progress.”

Whether it’s a pandemic, social injustice, or the myriad of other problems our nation and the world face every day, your brand can make a positive impact. Making a solid plan-of-action to have a positive impact will strengthen your company and the community around you.

Improving life for people and involving everyone in that effort will enhance your brand and the brand management process.

Image Credit: nandhu kumar; pexels

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content development.

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