The pandemic made some fundamental changes to how consumers make choices. For example, a recent survey found that when it comes to brands:
But consumer mindfulness is about more than comparing prices or reading reviews. More and more brands and businesses are recognizing that their values matter and are taking steps to show it. Just recently, Major League Baseball said it was moving the All-Star Game out of Atlanta because it disagreed with a new state statute. The organization was showing the corporate social responsibility consumers want, but its stance caused boycotts from supporters of the law. It even caused backlash from some who agreed with MLB's goals but felt that its action was counterproductive. Consumers may be more aware of corporate values than they once were, but MLB's move shows how easily a brand can become mired in controversy if it reacts to a nuanced issue with a grand gesture.
An easy way to avoid controversy is to support an uncontroversial goal, such as housing, food security or poverty. Research cited by GlobalGiving shows how choosing a worthy goal can help you:
It is important for companies to realize that corporate giving needs to come from the "heart" of the company. It should be a sincere reflection of the company's core beliefs. For instance, Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby are closed on Sundays as a reflection of the companies' core mission. Each of these privately owned businesses has a loyal following that shares the beliefs of the company and a cohort that will not shop there because it disagrees with them. The key to success for these companies is believing in their cause.
As a greater number of consumers step out of isolation and back into stores, restaurants, and sports and entertainment venues, businesses need to consider how public support of a cause will impact their brand, positively and negatively.
As they negotiate this decision, it is important to recognize that no brand will attract everyone, so it is essential to establish whether your company's beliefs are aligned with that of its target market. If they are, your values should be communicated to consumers and potential consumers. If they are not, however, it is best to remain neutral or find a different way to appeal to them, perhaps through quality, affordability or reliability — the three things consumers named as important to them.
No one knows what the new normal will look like. The best companies can do to keep customers loyal to their brand is stay alert to what their customer base is responding to and remain agile enough to respond.
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