A client I knew well began to see a pattern in sales that she had never seen before. Her brand was one of the top winners in her field because of the superior performance of her products over the competition for several years. Her sales team would use this advantage when approaching retail outlets about stocking their superior product lines. Then something began to fundamentally change, as her sales numbers went through a steep drop in orders coming from retail outlets. As she probed deeper with her sales force, a new insight became obvious. Although her brand still had superior performance in her field, other brands began to differentiate themselves by their image of being socially responsive in the market place. They had started using non-toxic substances in their products, and their commitment to reducing their footprint by recycling used product in productive ways had increased dramatically their market share.
This is becoming a more familiar story in many circles today. Simply put, people don’t need your stuff with so many alternatives to choose from. Especially in some markets, customers are now choosing their products as an expression of who they are and how they want to present themselves in the world. Brand loyalty is becoming more focused on the mission and purpose of the organization they are buying from, rather than the features and benefits of one product vs. another. One author put clearly the difference between repeat business customers and brand loyalty in today’s marketplace. Repeat customers will buy from you more than once. On the other hand, brand loyalty, over the long haul, is when customers will buy from you regardless of what the competition offers, even if it is somewhat cheaper or has better features.
At the center of this movement is a more sophisticated buyer who wants and sometimes demands that organizations begin to have a “heart” again. They are attracted to companies that have a strategic purpose and intent at the very center of their brands; one that they can personally relate to, and reflects the in image they want in the world. A similar trend is also taking place in younger employees. The younger generations today will actually work for less pay, if they believe the organization they are working for is making a positive impact in the world around them. In my first business book, Working with Purpose, I began to outline the difference between organizations see their business as a stewardship, rather than just a vehicle to make money. When I work with organizations, I help the leadership define a strategic intent that is beyond the revenue they are going to generate. It answers the “why they exist in the first place” before they answer “what they are going to do” or “how they are going to do it”. Questions for your reflection: Why does your organization exist, beyond the profit and revenue it generates? What does your brand say about being in the world today?