With a barrage of change happening in the world right now, contemporary culture is demanding transformation in all aspects of society. With culture often being a mixture of tradition, geography, and a reaction to the times, brands often have to respond to shifting ideas and priorities. These days, organizations are being prompted to voice their values and stand for what they believe in. This can be as simple as stating honesty as a core value or as complex as being deeply involved in an activist movement such as Black Lives Matter or Climate Change.
Today, consumers are in the driver's seat, setting standards and expectations for how brands interact with the rest of the world. They want them to be “with the times” and aware of current movements and changes in contemporary culture. The values an organization carries and represents are more important than ever.
In today’s market, buyers are being more careful about where their money goes and who to. Not only does every dollar have a monetary value, but also represents their voice in what they choose to support and what they do not. Consumer Activism, “activism taken by consumers through participating in the market such as through boycotts or ethical shopping”, is a growing tactic in the US for driving social change (Lightfoot). By taking back their power as a consumer, the everyday person can be an activist, encouraging brands to step up and make positive change.
In a recent study conducted by IBM, it was found that among the 16,000 global consumers that partook in the survey, half of the respondents stated that “they were willing to pay a premium for a sustainable brand or sustainable products” and that more than half stated that environmental sustainability was a top priority. It was also found that 49% said that they have “paid a premium—an average of 59% more—for products branded as sustainable or socially responsible in the last 12 months” (IBM). So, what does this mean for organizations? Buyers are ready and willing to support the brands who are taking a stand for what they believe in; who are participants in society and are choosing to use their products or services to make a positive impact on the world.
Whether you are in the beginning stages of developing an organization or in the process of rebranding, it can be difficult to know how to represent yourself in a socially responsible world. Along with knowing your personal mission, you must also know your core values, social impact, and corresponding audience. So, how do you choose what your company stands for?
Know Your Core Values
At the center of every business is a set of values that serve as a compass for the organization. These core beliefs set a precedent for the company culture, act as a guide for future decisions, and embody the mission of the brand. Often, once you have settled on the ethics that unite your team, the brand's mission follows. It is also important to remember that making a positive impact can be as straightforward as being a champion for authenticity or as elaborate as being a social enterprise that gives proceeds to conservation efforts. What’s most important is being a positive participant in the world and taking a stand through your brand.
The Brand Culture Compass is a unique visual guide that enables organizations and individuals to stay on a course for success by keeping clear focus on the principles and ideas that define who they are as a company and the value they provide others. Organizations use their Compasses to make consistent strategic decisions on branding, marketing communications, product/service development, hiring and other areas where it is crucial to align on a strong foundation of core brand values, attributes and key messages. The Brand Culture Compass describes your Brand Promise from the inside out. The Purpose in the center circle is why your organization exists - or why you operate the way you do. The Core Values describe how you go about realizing that purpose. The Brand Pillars are what you are recognized for providing to clients and colleagues. A Brand Culture Compass helps to guide internal decisions, unify external messages and ensures brand culture authenticity.
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Hond, Frank Den, and Frank G. A. De Bakker. “Ideologically Motivated Activism: How Activist Groups Influence Corporate Social Change Activities.” The Academy of Management Review, vol. 32, no. 3, 2007, pp. 901–24. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/20159341. Accessed 22 Aug. 2023.
IBM. “2022 Sustainability Consumer Research: Sustainability and Profitability.” IBM, www.ibm.com/thought-leadership/institute-business-value/en-us/report/2022-sustainability-consumer-research. Accessed 22 Aug. 2023.
Lightfoot, Elizabeth Bradford. “Consumer Activism for Social Change.” Social work vol. 64,4 (2019): 301-309. doi:10.1093/sw/swz035.