By Maggie Crespo Mijares, Project Executive- Somos Quiero/ Sustainable Brands Madrid
When describing a consumer these are some of the key descriptions one can find: “Someone who can make the decision of purchase”, “A purchaser of a good or service” “an end user”… revised and reformulated, we would like to define the consumer as a human being who will make the decision of purchase based on products or services that will fulfill its purposeful need of consumption. Consumers are craving authentic and transparent connections with the brands they support. These consumer preferences have quickly become one of the main driving forces towards corporate change. In this review, we will understand how to connect with consumers while translating the language of sustainability into a purpose-centric language that consumers can relate to while being a profitable company.
Sandra Pina, Partner of Somos Quiero and Director of SB Madrid, described in her Authentic Brands research -done together with Two much research- that in the case of Spanish society, not only consumers of certain age, status, sex or with certain political preferences are the ones that expect certain values or behaviour from organizations in line with purpose, but consumers of all kind are requesting this behaviour. Nowadays, 50% of the population is demanding this behaviour from companies, and this 50% is transversal amongst society, showing the percentage little variation depending on if the respondent is men-women, has certain economic status or not, if young or old, etc.
These consumers are living on an era where technology is enabling people to get the information they need, when they need it. Brands are demanded and expected to have a high level of transparency. Campbell’s strategy in labelling GMO in all its products it’s an interesting case example. Dave Stangis, Campbells VP of Corporate Responsibility & Chief Sustainability Officer explained in his presentation how they opened the door to this conversation by listening and responding from an authentic belief. By doing this they did not only build trust with their existing customers, but grew their market share with new, conscious consumers. In Dave’s words: “It was a moment of courage for the company, but our behavior has made us the most trusted product.”
Jonathan Yohannan, VP Panera Bread also shared his views on transparency. Since the launch of its “Food as It Should Be” campaign in 2014, they have increased efforts in the journey towards serving only “100% clean” food. This year, the restaurant chain announced that it had achieved its goal of eliminating artificial additives from its menu while also positing the calories and added sugar in each beverage.
A purposeful consumer wants to be taught and supported towards creating change. In the words of Adam Elman, Global Head of Plan A of Marks & Spencer: The consumer wants to do the right thing but at the same time acknowledges they live a hectic life, so they look for brands and business to help them make it easy to do the right thing. “They want us to help them help”. Adam pointed out how people are concerned in global issues but at the same time those issues create a sense of detachment by being “far away” of their possibility. It is important for organizations to create impact directly on their communities to make people feel more empowered with local issues.
Within this same line of reference Christopher Miller, Social Mission Activism Manager of Ben & Jerry´s amplified in how, corporate commitment to sustainability is no longer enough; companies have the obligation to engage stakeholders externally. There is an immense opportunity in organizations because they have the potential to create deep connections with consumers and engage them with policies and advocacy that makes the world a better place. To do so, he proposes creating issue advocacy by starting in thinking about the companies own values, in the things the company believes in. With this done, the company builds a consumer engagement campaign that speaks to consumers and moves them up a step into engagement and activation to take action on the specific issue. Christopher thinks that anyone can make good ice cream, but that they represent the opportunity of creating a loyal and strong fan base to help them become actively involved in issues people care about.
Paul Twivy, Founding Partner of Core Purpose proposed creating not only social actions with societal sense but with commercial sense. “The world thrives not on pure philanthropy but on mutual self-interest including that between customers, communities and companies.” An example is Marcs & Spencer´s renewable energy strategy. According to Adam Elman, they have been only using renewable energy since 2012, so taking in advantage their expertise they decided to provide with renewable energy to consumers, launching the M&S Energy business. Today they are the 7th largest company in UK selling to homes. “We have made sustainable energy made easy for our consumers but it’s a good business too”.- Adam Elman. What we need to have is the harnessing of profit and purpose together.
We invite you to redefine what a “consumer” is for you so you can thrive communicating your sustainability efforts. Unifying the universal power of human search for meaning with our brand essence and purpose will make us succeed by leading the way towards a flourishing future.
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