Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
People, in general, are good, right? We all try to apply “The Golden Rule” to some extent. We know the difference between right and wrong. We all slow down if we see a traffic accident out of concern for others and out of gratitude for what we avoided. Such innate feelings are the core of who we are.
Over the past several years, corporate America has moved toward initiatives and schemes that purport to bring an equal and just society to the fore for the benefit of all. Moves are being made to dress the table of equality in all areas (e.g., social, environmental, health, etc.).
But to me, the question I have about these movements is: Who can truly help move the needle on societal challenges like environmental and social issues? This question is worth bearing in mind, considering the elites of the world are claiming to be champions in the leveling of the current order of things. But from my perspective, the average brand has immense potential to influence positive change.
Today, we have a case of “manufacturing consent.” The reason I am penning these words is that change for change’s sake isn’t always for the reasons apparent. Now if you are going to involve your company brand to support any movements, I suggest you read a previous article I wrote, “3 Negative Effects of Claiming a False Brand Identity.”
Today, consumers expect businesses to express their support for positive movements for the betterment of society. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that consumers and employees want businesses to take a stand. Brands need to beware of looking self-serving and understand that people can spot inauthenticity from a mile away. A quote often (and somewhat incorrectly) attributed to Abraham Lincoln comes to mind: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”
If the values of your brand are going to be linked with a cause or movement (or multiple), make sure you have a full understanding of the issues at hand before you get too entrenched. As such, any affiliation with your brand requires you to know what you are dealing with. You may be called to account for that view in public. The future leanings of society need to be more than beneficial to the bottom line and a line item to the advertising budget. Don’t let your consent be manufactured without it.
For instance, perhaps have a speaker with expertise in social or environmental issues come speak to your staff. After such presentations, have a discussion with your staff as to what they think. This will bring your team together and give you a firsthand assessment of their thoughts, especially if there are movements your brand is well-positioned to contribute to. Soliciting your team’s input gives them the feeling of ownership. Another benefit is that this practice can serve as a team-building event. Listen to them though, as it’s your staff who will have work to do in managing the new interactions and, to a greater extent, your brand as it relates to any project.
You need to be aware of what and who you have involved yourself with prior to making any choice. Take your time to do the proper research on a movement or nonprofit organization you’re looking to align your brand with. Keep in mind, you must offer only what is reasonable in time and resources — you still have a business to run. Assign a member of your staff to stay abreast of the activity of your chosen effort. Set up a recurring update call with the groups you choose to support — nothing too long, just long enough to continue to establish current projects or initiatives. You can now in good conscience use resources to amplify mutually agreed upon constructive messaging.
Brands have the power to wake up and take steps to bring about a positive future for society.