I’ve often felt that what I do in my day job doesn’t really matter. Yes it makes my employer more money but the things I spend my time on don’t last. That amazing campaign ends up lining hamster cages, being deleted or being used to wrap cut-glass champagne flutes, and I turn my attention to the next big idea. During the dark days I often ask myself, “what do I contribute to the world?”
As marketers and brand custodians we have the opportunity to save the world. OK, that might be a bit of a simplification of the world’s problems, and we probably couldn’t save everybody, but we could give it a bloody good go.
We, as humans, seek out emotional connections to people, brands, products and services, but they don’t always return that connection with anything that is real. They sell, we buy and we fulfil a need plucked from Maslow’s hierarchy. With overall trust in corporations and brands reducing over time, we risk losing the ability to form emotional connections with customers. Without it, our ability to charge a premium, or see loyalty is diminished and we just compete on price.
So how do we build this connection? Our marketing could be full of emotion, like the P&G Winter Olympics advert (right), but people are clever. They know that this is advertising and they know what we are trying to do. We could be more transparent, but this is difficult to achieve and I’ve not seen anybody who has been able to do this effectively. Plus, the customer might not like some things they see and to control it isn’t being transparent.
I think that we can build these emotional connections through showing that we care about society. And I really think that we can do this in a way that helps good causes and helps our organisations. I’m not the only one, Richard Branson wrote on the same subject yesterday (I’d started writing this last week, honest).
This means going beyond a corporate social responsibility statement on your website, which was last updated in 2009. It means more than asking people not to print emails and it goes beyond an annual donation to a good cause. Those things are about covering our backs, doing the bare minimum.
Instead we should be using our brands, our presence, our connections and voice to champion causes or groups. It also involves contributing money, time, expertise or valuable real estate, but if we select the right cause, which connects with our customers, then we could show them we care. In some cases it could involve us actually doing something to help – like building a community centre, digging a well or funding a soup kitchen – but we can use this to show people that we get involved.
The result will be an emotional connection and maybe even some loyalty to our company, products or services. For the good cause they get support, but also further exposure, which will hopefully lead to more support or donations.