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”.
That mindset existing when choice was limited (if there was any choice at all) and led to big brands consumers trusted without question.
Honest is essential
Then ethics came into play. As the internet began its infancy, so the power of globalisation was laid bare by the internet. People asked more about how companies did things? Where were products sourced and how they were made became important to consumers. 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 (not their policies though) by educating and fighting back against the likes of Naomi Wolfs’ No Logo expose for example.
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 businesses operate matter in consumer decision making. 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 markets for many brands.
Why! – 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 being taken. 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 consumers to interrogate and validate brands as to their genuine credentials.
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.
What do the decision makers really value, their life story, their values really matter, and how they treat all their people now determines as much if not more in buyers minds than the value the products communicate.
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 is not just politicians who have seen their reputation tarnished but any business in any sector who does not explain their why factor. No matter what sector you are in, sustaining your reputation is essential and never more so than in explaining why you are in business and why you matter to consumers.