I had the privilege this summer to take a weeks vacation in Bermuda, which is a glorious place. I wholeheartedly recommend it so if you ever have the opportunity to visit then you should not hesitate and go.
The reason for mentioning Bermuda is that when you are there you realize just how well connected everyone is. Everyone seems to know everyone else which is not so surprising when you consider that the country is 27 miles long and only 1 mile across at its widest part. But what is surprising is just how friendly and caring everyone is. My initial observation is that they live in this wonderful country so why wouldn’t they be?
However having spent a few days there I started to realize that there is a sense of collective here. It is as though no one wants to let the other side down. It is more than peer pressure; there is an embedded and heartfelt belief in the value of contributing to a wider community and upholding values that are commonly shared. Everyone takes pride in contributing to a greater cause even when it requires the individual to go out of his or her own way.
There was a terrific post recently by Arianna Huffington related to this topic. It was titled “How to Immediately Improve Your Life (Hint: It Starts With Improving the Lives of Others)”. I will not try and distill this down, as everyone should read the entire article. However my take on this is that in a faster paced, complex, stressful and more unforgiving world people can cope better, be happier and healthier if you care and contribute to others.
Bermuda it seems is a great example of this and you feel that the physical boundaries of the country have created an environment where people are naturally better connected and this has resulted in a more caring society where compassionate empathy is normal.
So a key question is to ask if this is starting to happen in the virtual world? It is interesting to note that the fastest growing news site is Upworthy whose mantra is “Things that matter. Pass ‘em on.” Is this a sign?
One of the most obvious outcomes of our love affair with social media is that we are becoming more and more connected with the broader world about us and not just the community in which we live and work. Will this influence our brand choice? Certainly this is the viewpoint of Simon Mainwaring in his article “Purpose-Driven Social Brands Will Win Marketing 3.0″. Another good read is from Edelman.
So in summary today’s consumer is better educated, informed and connected than ever before and is now more conscious of the world around them. This enlightenment is starting to influence consumer priorities and decisions. Are consumers really that selfish that only their needs and expectations matter? I don’t think so, and increasing connectivity may well change this forever.
Image a Starbucks where you can see a live feed from the coffee growers or in a Burberry store you can hear about some of the community initiatives taking place to support the factory workers. Would we pay more, wait longer or take a less packaged product if we knew that our actions would make a positive difference to the people we impact.
It is an interesting world we live in and I believe global connectivity will influence consumers to support companies that “make a difference” rather than just satisfy their needs. It is already not just about the customer. So how should we respond as CMOs:
- Understand the impact your company has on the environment and society in general.
- Identify and establish a social purpose for the company.
- Embed this social purpose into the brand values that you wish the company to portray and live by.
- Identify how you can develop a culture that reflects and supports this social purpose.
- Help employees bring the social purpose to life and to be able to demonstrate the commitment and passion of the organization through acts not just words.
- Be transparent and honest in everything you do.
The future of brand marketing is almost upon us.