Social Responsibility Isn’t Enough – What Good Brands Need to Stand Out
By Anne Boyle | October 3, 2016
It’s time to face a harsh reality: social responsibility’s power as a differentiator for brands is waning.
This is due in large part to the fact that so many brands have embraced it. Most people wouldn’t care if 74% of brands disappeared yet consumers increasingly demand responsibility. Seeing the way genuinely good companies use social responsibility as a differentiator, it’s no surprise that brands have jumped on the social responsibility bandwagon.
With the growing number of genuinely responsible companies like B Corps and the proliferation of not-so-genuine goodwashers, 9 in 10 consumers now expect companies to do more than make a profit. That means that while consumers may favor your brand if you’re doing good, they certainly won’t view it as exceptional or different.
Social Responsibility Can Be An Add-On
These expectations from consumers are promising because they signal that buying responsibly is important to them. While they should theoretically prompt companies to adopt more responsible practices across their operations, many businesses get away with half-baked efforts because it’s so difficult for most of us to distinguish true responsibility from a clever marketing campaign or a CSR program with limited scope and minimal impact.
Instead of empowering conscious consumerism, these misleading practices cultivate distrust. When the expectations that marketing creates don’t mesh with the reality of the customer experience, it erodes trust in that company specifically and socially responsible businesses generally. Given the goodwashing that abounds, it’s no wonder that Americans trust only 22% of brands.
Consumers are starting to demand that companies back up their taglines and follow through on their guarantees. And companies are responding. Their bottom lines suffer when they fail to meet customer expectations and disappointment erodes trust and prevents loyalty, precluding profitable long-term relationships.
Purpose can help (Click to Tweet!).
The Power of Purpose
For many reasons in marketing and beyond, social responsibility is still absolutely necessary. But it’s no longer the differentiator it once was.
Social responsibility is largely focused on the actions and mechanics of a company — what a company does and how it does it. Purpose is rooted in the soul of a company – why it exists and the difference it makes. And that’s simply more meaningful to customers than disparate actions. (Learn more about social impact Purpose.)
What makes you stand out is what your brand means to consumers – how they interpret and experience your brand is what builds trust, affinity and loyalty. That’s where Purpose shines.