Staying mindful of various groups’ values, beliefs, perceptions, emotions and issues isn’t just a nice way of doing business; it’s become mandatory for companies that want to attract and retain customers.
Brands no longer just sell products and expect consumers to be satisfied. Today, consumers choose to do business with brands they have relationships with and that share their values. That comes in part from the younger generation’s expectation of communicating directly with brands and caring more about who they’re buying from — opting for brands and products based on criteria beyond price.
While Millennials have the highest expectations of brands — nearly 70% in the United States say they actively consider company values when making a purchase — the total number of all US adults who say the same is 52%. They expect companies to eschew lip service, instead incorporating their values throughout the entire company: from onboarding employees, to supporting a good cause.
There are plenty of good — and bad — examples of companies focusing on cultural-social awareness as a core value, but it’s important to find the approach that works best for your brand.
Taking a stand on an issue around a certain social or cultural issue is great — but only if it makes sense for your brand. An extreme example would be a meat producer saying they understand vegetarians. This would come off as fake and disingenuous, turning off more consumers than if they’d said nothing at all.
Ask yourself what rings true for your brand and what would feel authentic to your customers.
One example of a campaign that’s a natural brand extension is Cigna’s ‘Go. Know. Take Control’ campaign, which features celebs like Nick Jonas, Queen Latifah, and Ted Danson. This wellness campaign focuses on its customers’ mental and emotional health, and how those factors can also affect their physical health. As awareness for mental health continues to grow, it makes sense for the health care provider to pour resources into advocating for ways to get help. Since launching this campaign two years ago, Cigna has increased its annual check-ups by 18%.
Beyond the Obvious
Sometimes a brand’s best approach to finding a cultural-social focus isn’t so straightforward. Instead of looking at the surface level for how to connect with consumers, dig deeper into your brand — its history, how its products have affected different groups, who uses the product and their social concerns, and key overall values.
Reebok’s “Flipping the Game” podcast focuses on why women are still fighting for recognition in the sneaker world three decades after the first women’s sneaker came out. Dan Mazei, head of the global newsroom at Reebok, told NewsWhip they use the podcast as a way to expose inequalities that still exist for women — both inside and outside the shoe industry.
On the surface, women’s equality and a show brand might not seem like an obvious pairing, but they found a way to connect the two. The podcast earned 4.9/5 stars with 96 ratings on Apple Podcasts, clearly resonating with their intended audience.
Responsibility > Metrics
Whereas likes, retweets, shares, and email opens are a tangible way to track certain campaign’s success, increased loyalty doesn’t have as clear KPIs. That doesn’t make it any less important, however. Many consumers view it as a company’s responsibility to support and invest in different causes. For others, their connection with a brand on a cultural-social level is a main reason they interacted with them from the start.
Even if a specific focus isn’t as popular at the time, brands need to be in it for the long run. Take CVS, for example. When they made the decision to stop selling tobacco products in 2014, they became the first national retail pharmacy chain to do so. The company said they pulled tobacco because “it conflicted with our purpose of helping people on their path to better health.” The shift initially resulted in an 8% drop in general merchandise sales for the following quarter, but the company has since had a $16 billion increase in CVS Health’s pharmacy benefits management business, an increased ability to recruit better talent, and mostly positive media coverage about the decision. And since the change, tobacco sales have dropped for all retailers, according to the American Journal of Public Health.
The company’s decision to drop a big seller is obviously much bigger than a marketing campaign focused on cultural or social awareness. It’s an example of how a brand understands its core values and accordingly makes a move revolutionary within the industry, considering they were the first to make the jump. CVS is also working to eliminate photoshopped images from the beauty brands it carries, a step tailored to address other social concerns.
The bottom line is that there are countless cultural and social issues your brand can address, and more consumers are expecting the companies they do business with to be aware of those issues. Whichever issue your brand decides to engage, make sure it comes across as authentic and that it resonates with your customers.