Modern consumers still want their emotional and rational needs met, but these days they also want companies to be beneficial members of society.
Jonathan Lutkowski of Edelman, a research and marketing firm, calls this "delivering on societal needs."
Edelman is a global communications marketing firm that partners with many of the world's largest and emerging businesses and organizations to help them evolve, and promote and protect their brands and reputations. Each year the company conducts its Trust Barometer, a survey about the thoughts and trust of more than 33,000 consumers. It then uses those results to guide clients in their brand actions.
Borrowing from the 2016 and previous surveys, Lutkowski said when a company lets customers see what it is all about, and what its practices and beliefs are, those customers develop a great level of trust for the brand. As a result, they become much more willing to share the brand's content, defend the brand and purchase its products or services.
He said four out of five consumers understand that a company needs to make a profit in order to be sustainable, but they also want the company to do good in the process.
Lutkowski said there are four "buckets" consumers want filled, and companies need to balance in tandem if they want to gain and maintain consumer trust. Your goal should be to create societal impact in addition to profits through purposeful action in filling these buckets.
1. Actions: Help solve the tough problems. Lutkowski said there is unprecedented pressure on the global food supply, and that creates an opportunity for the food and beverage industry to bring new ideas and products to market that yield benefits. It also ensures connections between new developments and societal issues like social health, energy conservation and environmental problems.
2. Values: Exhibit shared values. Consumers need to feel confident that everyone involved in what they consume is open and honest about every ingredient and every step involved in production and distribution -what's in it, and how was it grown, raised or harvested? They're also concerned about ethical business practices, including how the industry interacts with its employees, communities and the planet, Lutkowski explained.
3. Employee advocacy: Make employees feel heard. Businesses must engage with new rigor and self-awareness, which Lutkowski said means that they must show a commitment to robust relationships, transparency and active listening with their employees. Employees must be included in any actions taken toward a solution to a societal problem. It helps them feel valuable and as if they are part of something bigger, which benefits the business internally, and also externally with customers.
4. Engagement: Expand the circle. Engagement is the multiplier factor, Lutkowski said. It's engaging with stakeholders throughout the supply chain and building partnerships of mutual benefit to co-create and collaborate on solutions. How industry players engage, Lutkowski said, is essential to building market share.
Trust matters most
Trust in business has many values, but these days it can definitely earn greater profit and success.
In recent years, there has been a huge shift in consumers saying they are more likely to buy products and/or services from companies they trust (68% versus 48%), Lutkowski said.
Likewise, consumers say they are more likely to recommend a trusted company to a friend or colleague (59% versus 42%), more likely to share positive opinions online and even more likely to defend a company online that they trust.
Most important for the business, consumers say they are willing to pay more for products or services from companies they trust (37% versus 20%).
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