By Amy Do
Donation buttons. Water bucket challenges. Boycott hashtags — call it a surge of cancel culture or cause marketing, but whatever buzzword you land on, communication is now gamified as a result of social media. What once was a spectator sport has players all in, turning the voice of one into a voice of many.
More than just the number of players has changed the field though, and social media uprooted the rules of the game of communication entirely. Expectations rose and the new normal for consumers became less of what can a brand do for me? to more of how does a brand represent me and my values?
This shift made trust the currency of social media, forcing brands to show their cards as more consumers grew a desire to trust who they were purchasing from. The 2019 Edelman Consumer Trust Barometer Special Report indicates 81% of consumers are making purchasing decisions based on whether they trust the brand. The dilemma: many brands are still adjusting to the rules of the game, with only 34% of consumers trusting the brands they purchase from.
In short, brands underdeliver on social media strategies when purpose is left out of the playbook. Purpose is the heart of the brand, guiding values amongst every person the brand touches, from the CEO to the last consumer standing, the players you recruit and the fans who rally behind you. It’s what your brand lives everyday, beyond the product or service you provide— and it's the one conversation that will become many across the streams, giving your brand a competitive advantage as a result.
Purpose-less brands play defense
Success can still be achieved without purpose at a brand's core but be prepared to play defense. Think online retailer Wayfair after more than 500 employees walked out when they discovered the brand sold mattresses to border detention camps for children. From within the four walls at Wayfair, employees took action, creating Twitter handle @WayfairWalkout and growing a community of over 23,000 followers. Within a matter of hours, the movement sparked nearly 194,000 #WayfairWalkout mentions from customers like Jenny, @Nocrazydmspls.
Many customers cancelled their orders, publically using #WayfairWalkout to express support for Wayfair employees. The company responded with a $100K donation to the Red Cross but the attempt only fueled the fire.
Gone are the days where a donation check to support a cause eases tensions. The finish line is continuously shifting and brands with purpose at their core have the agility to withstand social disruption because to them purpose not an afterthought but ingrained in their social strategy.
Purpose drives winning strategy
The WNBA is one of the best brands who practices purpose on and off the court. Bringing together sports, business and social injustice, the league is about empowering people—fans, players, executive leaders—to take a stand for social change. Everyone in the organization is aligned and engaged.
At the start of the league’s 22nd season, the WNBA launched “Take a seat, take a stand” to show fans that just because they’re in season, their social responsibilities didn’t just sit on the sidelines. This provided an opportunity to engage and empower fans to be a part of something bigger through the simple action of purchasing a ticket. In return, for every ticket sold, the WNBA sponsored would send a young girl from one of their organizations to see the power of the league in action. Some powerful fans took to social media to show their support, not only filling seats and driving engagement up 129%, but by banding together a single community for a greater cause.
Purpose is not a side hustle for the WNBA. It is their hustle. Before everyone was binging “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” the WNBA hosted LGBT-focused events. Instead of writing a check to a local community, the league formed youth programs to connect with locals impacting future generations. At every level of the WNBA organization, one voice turns into ten, a 100 and soon, thousands. Whether you’re the first of two all-female ownership groups to own a major American sport like Seattle Storm co-owners Lisa Brummel, Ginny Gilder and Dawn Trudeau, or created your own global foundation for a cause close to your heart like New York Liberty center Tina Charles, they are a part of the purpose advantage for the WNBA. Even last year, when WNBA President Lisa Borders decided to step down, she left to serve as president of another purpose-driven organization, Times Up, supporting the safe, fair and dignified work for women of all kinds.
So while the WNBA continues to play offense, Wayfair is under fire again just months after #WayfairWalkout as an interview with their CEO gets misunderstood in a decision to hire “non-political” employees. Critics say Wayfair continues to risk the high stakes by defending their actions, rather than defining their action.
It’s a wild game on social when everyone is empowered with a powerful tool like their voice. Why not leverage the spirit of purpose to cheer for you rather than against you?
Jan 24, 2020
Consumer Products, Media, Millennial, Purpose, Retail
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