In today's customer-driven marketplace, our perception of a brand's value is not just based around its capacity to bring us products and services we love - we also value their ability to positively change the world. For most companies, it's now imperative that their brand's core mission is articulated to their customers all the time.
With Corporate Social Responsibility taking on renewed importance, many have suggested that this has brought in a new era for marketers, namely, Marketing 3.0. In terms of consumer expectations, only 6% of consumers believe that the singular purpose of business is to make money for its stakeholders, whilst 80% of global consumers identify the importance of organisations making them aware of their interests in societal issues.
Some of the world's biggest companies including Nike, Monsanto and Chevron have experienced corporate social responsibility issues in the last decade or so and have been labeled 'unethical' by many activists and certain branches of the media. Being labelled in this way is something which should have a detrimental impact on a company's success - research shows that 90% of consumers would boycott a company if they learnt about any irresponsible business practices.
In contrary to this however, there are many examples where our seemingly unwavering desire for CSR strays. Apple, who on January 28th 2015 posted the biggest quarterly profits of all time, have been put under scrutiny for the poor conditions it apparently subjects to its Chinese factory workers to - whilst Walmart are known for coming to a new town and 'unfairly' driving out local businesses with incredibly low prices. This may point to the fact that Apple and Walmart's products and prices are just so desirable that people turn a blind eye to their unethical endeavours.
Although some may not admit to it, when a company has something we want, there isn't much that will deter us. A family who are living just above the poverty line are likely to go the cheapest place available, something which you couldn't blame them for. The fact that Apple have emerged unscathed by the allegations of their unethical Chinese factories could perhaps be attributed to the strength of its brand, which has become synonymous with innovation, arguably what got Nike through their sweatshop scandal as well.
For most companies however, this brand strength cannot be relied upon, which is why purpose-driven marketing isn't a fad, with the majority of the research indicating that CSR can really affect a company's longterm future. A more ethical stance brings a whole host of advantages - from cost savings through energy reductions, the ability to attach better candidates to roles (research indicates that 81% of people consider CSR when they're deciding where to work), employee engagement and brand differentiation, the advantages are great.
A good example of this is Unilever, who have driven purpose driven strategies to great effect, with their energy reductions leading to considerable cost savings and renewed employee loyalty. Although there are exceptions, I truly believe that consumers will boycott brands that continually go against CSR - some major players may have the strength to brushes with the law to one side, but for many, one bad report and profitability could plummet. Above all, CSR brings value above growth and should be implemented by every company as we move towards a more sustainable corporate world. For companies this will put extra emphasis on Social Media, so if you're working in a company that doesn't value digital, this will unquestionably have to change.