In the last few years, it has become increasingly evident that the defining factor behind consumers’ purchasing decisions is a business’ values. For businesses, taking a moral stand might seem like an unnecessary risk given the current economic climate and polarised political environment, but the cost of staying silent may be even greater. Hello Mother’s Jason Steel looks into how to capture the next generation of consumers.
More than ever, customers are looking to do good through their collective purchasing power – they want to feel good about their choices, and they want to avoid the consequences of supporting unethical or unsustainable businesses. As Gen Z comes close to surpassing Millennials as the most populous generation on earth making up a third of the world’s population, brands must keep their penchant for social activism front of mind if they want to achieve longevity.
As someone who prides himself on running a values-led business, I can say with confidence that the pay off in the end has been worth it. Though this has meant I’ve had to part ways with clients who weren’t the right fit, I’ve found many more who were, and have gone on to achieve great things with them. Values-led marketing means promoting deeper commonalities which grants brands a more meaningful connection with target audiences.
How to capture the next generation of consumers
The rise of the ethical consumer has been a significant trend for some time. For example, more than a third of global consumers are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly alternatives while close to 90 percent of US survey respondents said they’d boycott a brand for irresponsible business actions. Consumers understand that their collective impact can affect real change. And thanks to social media, their clout has increased exponentially.
The conventional wisdom ‘bad news travels twice as fast as good news’ highlights the high-stakes nature of doing business in a world with a 24/7 news cycle, online reviews, and a highly competitive global market.
It is against this backdrop that values-based positioning really shines. Just like it is with people, what makes a brand stand out is its personality. The values a brand communicates is what makes up its unique personality and differentiates it from others. As customers and arguably stakeholders place higher expectations on businesses’ behaviour, being brave, authentic, and transparent has benefits way beyond the bottom line. Brands that are seen to be values-led are perceived as a more attractive employer, a better candidate for brand partnerships and a valued member of the community.
The rise of the ethical consumer
Underpinning the success of values-led business is the rising awareness of climate change, environmental destruction, problematic supply chains that encompass child labour and sweatshops, toxic work environments and more. Across industries and countries, ethical practices such as sustainability, diversity and inclusion have become essential to establishing a baseline of acceptability for a growing cohort of customers primarily made up of Gen Z and Millennial consumers.
Not only are Gen Z willing to walk away from their own jobs over a clash of values with their employers, as consumers they’re even pickier when it comes to where they choose to spend their money. Alongside price, functionality, design and value for money, a brand’s commitment to social causes and its particular values has become baked into the total customer experience. It has the added purpose of conveying status to those who choose to align with it.
Across the spectrum consumers have shown they don’t just want to buy your products, they also want to feel good or at least not feel bad while doing it. Brands like Patagonia which was one of the first apparel manufacturer to use recycled materials, TOMS which sends a pair of shoes to a child in need with every purchase and New Belgium Brewing Company which is famous for ensuring 99.9 percent of the manufacturing waste doesn’t end up in landfill, have been known for being values-led from the start.
Values are critical to the extent that up to 42 percent of customers will drop a brand for not aligning with their beliefs, with 21 percent choosing to leave for good.
How leaders can embrace values-led marketing
So how can leaders make the most of a values-led approach to better connect with audiences? The first step to take is to look within and identify the values, priorities and experiences that motivate them. It’s important to keep in mind that taking an authentic position can vary from person to person, brand to brand. Businesses need to ensure they truly believe in the values they’re hoping to project; this will provide material to tell a unique story that will engage consumers and serve as a point of difference against other brands.
Ways to incorporate values-led marketing:
1. Be prepared to accept not everyone will like you
As a values-led business you may occasionally lose out on a client, contract or customer but your integrity and reputation is far more valuable than being liked. Part of the values-led journey is about finding the right fit for your brand which will attract the right sort of clients and customers for you.
2. Set clear boundaries
Being values-led means you may come across business practices you may not agree with or being asked to do something that doesn’t fit with your beliefs. It’s important to communicate expectations, speak up early and often so stakeholders always know where you stand. This will be imperative in getting the next generation of consumers to become your consumers.
3. Highlight your brand’s social benefits
Social media can also be used to send a clear and strong message of what you believe in – use powerful content like images and video to show your business in action e.g. packing orders using sustainable materials, meeting with community leaders, donating to a cause and so on. It’s easy to weave these values into brand content across all platforms when they form such a critical part of your overarching narrative.
4. Follow through with solid action
Put your business’ values into action by aligning with a cause that’s meaningful to you or take a stand against something that goes against your core values. Brands can make a social media statement of support on significant days like International Women’s Day, put its mission and values up on the website or share other organisation’s causes with the online audience.
Values will lead the way forward
Values are what injects brands with personality, substance and purpose. It is how businesses draw the line on the things it won’t compromise on be it customer service, quality or sustainability and broadcast it to their audience. This is a chance for brands to educate their audience on their story and their beliefs. Having a consistent narrative backed up with action is what will establish a fruitful and trusting long-term relationship with target audiences.
Beyond what a brand sells, bonding with customers over shared values to make the world a better place is what will resonate. Being passionate and open about what you believe in is a powerful way to capture attention. In a crowded marketplace, it is this authenticity which will cut through all the noise.