Since consumers are not willing to, its time for brands to make sacrifices!
It’s the gore truth, however inconvenient it may sound. And a question that more and more brands will ask in the coming year/s: what are you prepared to sacrifice?
It seems that consumers do not want to make the world a better place (sorry Bob Geldof!). They expect brands to do that for them. Well, that’s a simplification of a complex issue.
But when it comes to making the world a better place, the shoe is squarely on the other foot-many consumers are setting a more stringent standard for brands than they are for themselves. Does this come as a surprise? Not in the least. And let’s face it: given decades of unethical operations, rampant pollution, disinformation and more, brands deserve it. After all, many brands have worked extremely hard to create many of the behaviors and lifestyle choices that well-meaning consumers are now finding so hard to change. The hunter has become the hunted.
To quote a recent global survey of 30000 consumers done by Accenture & Havas Media in June 2014, 72% of people said that business is failing to take care of the planet and society as a whole.
The situation now? Endless brand sustainability initiatives and CSR-speak (a lot of us cynical enough to title it CsRAP speak); endless consumer skepticism.
The only meaningful path left for brands is to stop talking and act. One powerful form of action that will rise to the top of the consumer agenda in 2015 and beyond? Real, constructive, painful SACRIFICES.
Because the message from many of these consumers will be ‘do as I say, not as I do’.
Sounds unfair? Who said consumers had to be fair?
Still, if you take some time to understand the epic force driving this trend, you’ll understand why consumers are acting this way…
In the pursuit of the nirvana that is GUILT-FREE CONSUMPTION, consumers are looking for brands to make SACRIFICES (so they don’t have to). But, sacrifices aren’t easy. In fact they are downright painful. We all are aware and conscious of our carbon footprints. But how many of us have actually stopped flying or reduced flying? How many flights have you SACRIFICED this year? According to global travel body IATA, the air traffic passenger demand worldwide has increased by almost 6% compared to the corresponding period the previous year. Because while some consumers are actively making SACRIFICES of their own, many more crave a new kind of consumption: one that allows unabashed and continued indulgence without guilt over negative impacts on SELF, SOCIETY or the PLANET.
And here is the irony. A contradiction of serious proportions: The easiest and most desirable way for consumers to assuage (or obliterate!) their guilt? For brands to make visible, meaningful and constructive SACRIFICES: of products, processes, attention and opportunities. Here are a few examples worth taking note of:
Brands Sacrificing for the Self
CVS Pharmacy chain in the US stops selling tobacco products at all its outlets. The potential loss in revenue is almost 2.5 billion US$ but CVS wants to be seen as a brand that does not contradict its position as a healthcare/wellness provider.
TESCO supermarket chain in the UK will stop selling Candy at its check out points based on a survey amongst 65000 consumers, driving them to more healthy options.
Brands Sacrificing for Society
In January 2014, multinational technology firm Intel stopped using materials from conflict zones to build its microprocessors. Minerals such as gold and tungsten are often mined in countries affected by armed struggles and human rights violations, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In March 2014, Irish brewer Guinness announced it would not participate in New York City’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade because gay and lesbian groups were prohibited from carrying gay-friendly or LGBT identifying signs. The brand, one of the event’s biggest sponsors, withdrew support the day before the event after negotiations to reverse the exclusion policy failed.
Brands Sacrificing for the Planet
In June 2014, Tesla, the US Electric car manufacturer announced that it would no longer initiate patent lawsuits against anyone using their technology in good faith. The company stated that given the incredibly small size of the electric car market relative to the total automotive market, and the urgency of the carbon crisis, there would be an overall benefit to humanity in making their technology available (even to potential competitors).
Following allegations that suppliers in China were mistreating rabbits during the production of angora wool in November 2013, multiple global fashion retailers have removed angora products from stock and suspended sourcing. More than 30 brands, including H&M, Forever 21 and Topshop (who received a petition with more than 100,000 signatures), committed to removing angora products, with ASOS, Mango and John Lewis implementing permanent bans in the UK. Other retailers, including Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, committed to global bans. The original video footage was released by animal-rights organization PETA and was widely circulated on social media.
Brands seen to be doing good have a better chance to be the best in the now and in the future. But it does call for a rethinking of convention and the tried and rusted. So brands: what are you willing to SACRIFICE?