Corporations, consumers, and citizens must begin acting in concert to create a powerful third pillar of social transformation if we hope to meet the social challenges we currently face with equal force. This begins with corporations that choose to alter how they practice capitalism in two ways to serve the greater good.
The first way consists of unilateral changes—purely voluntary decisions to revise the old models of corporate thinking and to put into operation a higher level of responsibility, accountability, transparency and sustainable business practices. These actions are largely internal, but they serve to demonstrate to the outside world of consumers that the brand understands their expectations.
Such actions include having their leadership take a concrete stand on being a socially responsible company; embedding purpose into their profit-oriented business strategy; engaging employees and management in purposeful activities that help their communities or the world at large; reconfiguring their business practices to implement sustainability; seeking to build prosperity rather than just earn a profit; and collaborating with other companies to make change more effective and efficient.
The second course consists of actions that companies and their brands need to initiate in an effort to draw consumers into their sphere of influence, where they become partners in social transformation. These actions include a shift in character of the brand’s strategy from a broadcast/push to a social/pull approach. Companies and their brands need to reach out and speak directly to consumers, to honor their values, and to form meaningful relationships with them. They must become architects of community, consistently demonstrating the values that their customer community expects in exchange for their loyalty and purchases.
Brands achieve this by inviting consumers to co-create their brand’s story, and by building social as well as financial capital. They need to give consumers a chance to elect the brand every day, by endorsing it on their social networks, in their blogs, and at cash registers.
Brands that do this can earn enormous benefits in terms of their employee satisfaction, their reputation, and in their bottom line. What’s more they create a dynamic partnership between brands and consumers that can ensure the well being of society and the company itself.
Do you believe brands are becoming will partners with consumers? What benefits do you believe it offers brands?