Will they BUY?
In the old days people used to buy what companies did, what they made, where they sold it and bought what they promoted. That was the age of big marketing and sales budgets, when big adverts worked, by driving demand through pushing products down channels, offering promotion and celebrity endorsement to generate business.
The age of the Unique Selling Proposition ‘we are special because….. so you will buy’! It was the 1980 and 1990’s so the world did as it was told: “we make what you want because we tell you want you want because we know about your needs”. This relied upon trust in a brand by the public, which in a pre-internet world gave the control of information to the brands.
Trust, the intangible combination of character and competence which all successful brands must develop and sustain is mad cup of a whole series of elements itemised below. The importance of ethics in today’s business are essential characteristics which purchasers expect their brand to portray in all their activities. That makes it a key priority for leaders’ to focus on within their role.
Honest is essential
Then ethics came into play, as the age of information came into play in the early years of the new millennium. As the internet began its infancy, the power of globalisation was laid bare by the internet. People asked more about how companies did things? Where were products sourced and how became important. Why were the premium footballs, such as those which David Beckham kicked, being made by blind children in India for a few rupees. Why were the clothes models wore being made in sweat shops where workers earned less than for a dollar a day?
The internet changed how the media could communicate, explaining how household names operated and could afford those huge marketing budgets. This forced companies to change their practises (and their internal policies) by educating and fighting back against the likes of Naomi Wolfs’ No Logo expose for example. The brands who recognised that they could no longer hide their activities became more open and honest and developed trust, while those which did not, suffered public shaming and demise.
How business operated mattered, and so in response companies upped their awareness of their social impact and visibility through corporate social responsibility. How people did things mattered not just when the likes of Bhopal and Exxon Valdez disasters struck, but in everyday life.
Fair-trade has become a household name in consumer goods, with high street stores vying for credibility of having an ethical policy, supporting local goods and having transparent policies of how they operate. This gives more confidence but leaves companies open to further scrutiny and often to unsatisfactory answers to vital key questions, not at least within developing countries, who are now the fastest growing emerging markets for many brands.
Ethically; should I buy from you?
The biggest question which consumers and business now asks people is why businesses are doing these things. Everyone has become so empowered with information sources that people want to buy the WHY, not the what. Buyers want to understand the ethics of the company and importantly the people behind the decisions it takes. Customers want to know that these decisions accurately reflect the real cultural and values that company has, not just the marketing hype, which the brand portrays. Today this is the real power of the internet.
What’s the real purpose of the company, who and what is driving it and what does it really believe in and stand for. No longer is a small donation to a local charity enough to say it supports the community, customers want to know how much, who gets involved, is it company wide and deep or just a year-end tax saving. In today’s world the importance of ethics in today’s business cannot be understated for leaders to focus upon in their role.
Ethical Values Being Lived
In fact the world has changed completely, confidence comes not from what you say but why you are saying it. The educated and informed world means that it’s not just politicians who have seen their reputation tarnished but any business in any sector who does not explain it why factor.
It snot just whistle blowers who expose mal-practice in today’s world, everyone is communicating through so many channels, from traditional word of mouth, through social media and beyond into a connected world, where reputations must be transparent. As everyone’s voice matters, being ethically transparent, open and honest is now essential if a brand is to be trusted.
Winning customers is no longer all leaders have to focus on. Finding talented staff, channels partners and customers is now a multifaceted challenge for leaders to deal with. Ethical short-cuts damage brands reputation and those damaging allegations now stick, and become magnified to stakeholders as statements are now online, like a bad trip advisor review, it never goes. A tarnished reputation is exactly that.
No matter what sector you are in, understanding the still emerging power of the internet in sustaining your reputation is essential and never more so than in explaining why you are in business and why you matter. The importance of ethics in today’s business has never been so important to establish and maintain.
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