Why Pursuing Meaning Rather Than Just Money Is Vital for Success

3, 2021

6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Today’s customers expect more from brands. Companies cannot afford to be faceless monoliths focused purely on profits. While that may have been fine in the old days, 64 percent of today’s global consumers will choose to buy from or boycott a brand based on its position on a social issue.

Buying from a company has become about more than the product or service involved in the transaction. Increasingly informed consumers are weighing a brand’s greater role in society before they choose to do business. Because of this, all founders must focus on doing good — not just trying to pad their bottom line.

Doing good has a very real impact on customer trust

2020 was filled with turmoil that highlighted how brand values and actions have a greater impact than ever before. Black Lives Matter protests over the summer caused many brands to take greater steps to address racial inequity, with everything from updated messaging to new internal initiatives.

Customers noticed. Survey data from the National Retail Federation’s 2020 The Evolving Conversation On Consumer Values revealed that 67 percent of consumers noticed “companies taking a stance on racial issues for the first time.” Fifty-nine percent felt they had seen companies serving as forces for good during the protests.

Perhaps most tellingly, however, was that 74 percent of customers felt that the way a company acted in response to the protests would have a direct impact on whether they’d buy from that company again in the future.

Even when the idea of doing good is less politically charged, it has a significant influence on customers. In a separate survey, 77 percent report preferring to buy from brands that share their values — whether that is in support of an environmental cause, social issue or something else entirely.

Related: 4 Steps to Demonstrate Your Commitment to Diversity

How can your brand do good?

In an email conversation, Alexandre Rigaud, co-founder and CEO of STEP, a well-being platform that allows businesses to white-label apps that promote and reward healthy, active living, explained that brands don’t necessarily have to start campaigning on the hot political and social causes of the day to make a difference.

“Customers are looking for ways in which a brand ‘does good’ in their personal lives, as well. When you can offer tangible benefits to their lives — like making it easier for them to get fit, eat better or strengthen mental health — it’s easy for them to see how you make a real difference. For years, businesses have looked to heighten their level of social responsibility, but being responsible to the extent of caring for people’s health is something new. Whatever the case, look for causes that everyone can rally around, regardless of background or beliefs.”

For example, a survey of consumers in the United Kingdom found that for-profit organizations were generally viewed as good at promoting messages that were good for the planet and that united people around cultural events.

Causes like providing meals to underprivileged families or reducing carbon emissions are easy for anyone to rally behind. Many brands even have employees take days off to do volunteer work in the community.

How to ensure that doing good has the greatest effect

In most instances, a business’ ability to do good is largely dependent on its customers. Being able to support a cause means running a profitable company efficiently, while also creating alignment with the values of your customer base.

This is just one of the reasons the founder of BrainTap, a popular meditation app, chose Dr. Oz’s non-profit, HealthCorps, as one of its primary beneficiaries. “Working with non-profit organizations that align with our values at BrainTap and our community is our top priority. Choosing Dr. Oz’s non-profit, HealthCorps, was for us a perfect match,” stated Dr. Patrick Porter via email. “With their mission of educating young people to become more mentally resilient and choosing a wellness lifestyle, HealthCorps is an organization we could fully get behind.”

Another great example is the shoe brand TOMS, which invests one-third of its profits in grassroots community efforts supporting mental health and increasing equity. Notably, the brand did this as a shift away from its famous “one for one” program that donated shoes to charity. It felt that a different approach to doing good would have a greater overall impact.

The key is that the donations come from the company’s profits — and it can’t have profits without its customers.

This requires that the brand actively promote its products. But so does every other brand. The difference is that the social mission of TOMS is closely integrated in all of its marketing. When consumers think of the brand, they are just as likely to think of its social initiatives as they are of the shoes themselves.

No matter what causes your brand chooses to support, active communication is key to expanding your impact. After all, the more customers who do business with you, the more of an impact for good your brand will be able to make.

Of course, brands should actively communicate every effort for good — not just the ones dependent on customer purchases. The previously cited report from the National Retail Federation suggested that as part of their efforts to address racial inequity, companies needed to take specific actions, including supporting diverse employees and promoting a more diverse workforce.

Most important, however, was communicating these efforts with their customers. Customers expect transparency, and deserve to know when internal initiatives for social good are taking place. Communicating such actions can go a long way in winning their support.

Related: 6 Ways to Do Well By Doing Good

Finding meaningful ways to make an impact

No matter how your brand ultimately decides to go about doing good, you must start taking meaningful actions sooner rather than later. By making a cause part of your identity and branding, and actively communicating your values to your customers, you will be better able to attract like-minded people who might never have considered your brand otherwise.

Doing good becomes a true win-win. As your brand becomes a true force for change in the world, your customer base will grow.


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