In a world of so much abundance, the reality that there are still a great many people who lack some of the most basic essentials is difficult to understand. Some brands have approached these problems head-on, developing a business model that incorporates giving. While some of the largest global brands continue to contribute significantly in philanthropic ways, the giving might not feel as direct or immediate to consumers who want the confidence and instant gratification of knowing they are directly having an impact.
We see study after study that support this idea that consumers believe it is important to buy from responsible brands. But what does that even mean?
We explored this idea on Branding Strategy Insider in a piece titled Customers Struggle To Identify Responsible Brands, in which Mark Di Somma concluded that, “The clear take-aways for me are that ‘responsible’ is subjective for many consumers, that the charity sector is increasingly failing to deliver a value proposition that gives it moral and financial priority over the claims of others, and that ‘responsible’ in itself may be more closely associated with likeability than many of us might have expected. In other words, perhaps consumers gift the brands they like with attributes that they also wish to be associated with.”
This may be one reason why the TOMS “One for One” model has taken off in different industries. Unlike brands which may excel at social responsibility but in an abstract undefined way, there is a tangible sensation that happens when a customer buys from TOMS. They know that somewhere in the world, a pair of shoes will be delivered to someone in need when they purchase. And in case you want to see how this program has evolved, comprehensive information is available on their website.
A few of the other brands who follow this one-for-one model:
- Bombas spent two years researching and developing the perfect pair of socks, and donates one pair of socks to someone in need for every pair sold.
- Warby Parker eyewear also has a “Buy a pair, give a pair” program that has distributed over 4 million pairs of glasses. In the developing world, just one pair of glasses can increase productivity by 35% and increases monthly income by 20%.
- The Company Store manufactures bedding and has worked with charitable organizations across the US to donate thousands of comforters to homeless children.
- FEED’s mission is to end hunger, and their products are stamped with a number that represent the number of meals your purchase will give a family in need.
Not every brand has offerings that make one-for-one even a possibility, but all brands should pay attention to the attractiveness of directly demonstrating the positive impact a brand has. In these post-truth times when information is easily manipulated and even easier to misunderstand, the more a brand can do to show provable outcomes of its ‘responsibility’, the easier it will be to tell a responsibility story. Here are some ideas:
- Set goals for community impact and make them public. It can be something simple, like pledging to donate used laptops to schools in need, or more elaborate such as employee volunteer hours, donating a percentage of revenue, or matching employee donations.
- Share the joy of giving. Don’t miss an opportunity to use social media to share photos and videos of the people that make up your brand having a positive impact.
- Track the progress and share it with the world. Don’t just bury a paragraph in the “about us” section of the website. Make it something worth searching for.
Social responsibility is a product. Consumers expect it. Brands must define and deliver it.
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