Why is “Social Good” A Good Business Model?

March 31, 2013sparxoo_admin

A number of distinctions set socially good brands apart. And the really fascinating part: their business model really works. In the spirit of April’s Earth Day (which is just my cover for pouring out my hippie heart), let’s take a deep dive into why these brands naturally stand apart. Why have we seen such an influx of social good in the business sector? Because focus has moved:

From Marginal Cost to Mutual Benefit – The reality of business goals is price maximization. However, price maximization and PR are no longer separate entities. It used to be that PR unnaturally shoved ads at people and convinced skeptics to buy. As brands increase their social good, it all seems to flow together naturally. Consumers care about your cause: they buy – you profit – they feel good, with their product and their gold star for saving the world – you feel good because you fulfilled your cause and can afford to open up shop tomorrow. The mutual benefit that is inherent to social brands allows for a less sensitive price point, an enhanced affinity toward the brand. Happy consumers, happy shareholders, happy world. Naturally.

From Product to Passion – People are going to buy things they need. But what keeps them coming back to a social brand? If you’re providing something that people care about, and they know that they’re part of something bigger… they’ll fall in love. Brands can make an emotional connection, regardless. But a brand that tugs on the heartstrings speeds up the process. It’s like having the home field advantage.

 From Commodity to Culture – Consumers love companies. The whole company – the CEO, the workers in the store, the “look and feel” that they have when they use product, and the personality and culture that the company represents. Social brands heighten company transparency as every stage of the value chain is aimed towards a higher purpose.

From “Me-Me-Me” to Mission Statement – Social brands have a transparent mission statement that defines how and why they work. This sets the stage for striking messaging (my personal fave). There’s no need to boast and brag about your product. Your existence does all the talking. For brands with a social purpose, the mission is the comparative advantage.

 From Selling to Storytelling – The invigorating thing about social good brands is that they already know their story. If you offer quality and uphold your mission, customers will keep coming back. With poignant messaging and positioning, the story retells (and sells) itself.

From Exchange to Engage – Pardon me while I get up on my branding soap box, but the market place is no longer just about buy/sell swaps. There are so many variables involved, and it’s a feat to make sure that your audience choses you. Being socially good represents the future of marketing: people want value added every step of the way. This includes the personality and mission of the brand, its digital and social presence, the quality of the product, and the recurring interactions that result.

 From Cluttered to Simple – It’s streamlined. Core values that are simple, clear, and desirable. With a defined purpose, the brand plan manifests quite beautifully. Look at two of the most refined and irresistible social good brands:

  • One pair of plain shoes that we probably would have thought were ugly, but they identified with a cause, so the rage began with the young, aspirational crowd, and then become a trendy icon for social good.
  • Whole Foods. A grocery store experience that epitomizes conscious capitalism. Eat good, feel good, look good, do good. Then check out with the cashier who wishes you a peaceful day as they put your organic salad into your reusable bags and you donate to their sustainable micro-loan program. I love it.

And From Advertising to Awe-Inspiring – People naturally prefer brands that work for social good if there’s an option. And why wouldn’t they? It’s an added bonus. It adds meaning, (with the help of Gen-Y) it’s the thing to do. In this case, product paired with purpose is as close to an indestructible advertising foundation as you could get.

Ultimately, a socially good business model is primed for everything else to succeed naturally. The messaging, the branding, the social following. It all aligns easily with the mission.

 So you’re thinking… What about my brand? This just doesn’t apply to what we do…

Oh good! Then you’re in for a surprise (and you’re on the right website)!

Your brand may not be defined around social good, but it is known for something. The day when the core of all brands is to work for social good may be far off. And that’s ok. But the day when all brands aren’t socially bad is… well. It’s here. Most brands are trying to incorporate some level of “social good,” at least in the sense that they aren’t vilified (for polluting or lying about their product inputs). And it allows for an extra bonuses: revealing personality, community involvement, tons of PR gains, and even cost saving.

Your brand can adopt some components of a social good business model, and make it work in its own unique way. Start with these three questions:

  • What does your brand want to give to its consumers?
  • What is your brand’s strongest asset?
  • What does your brand want to give to the world (or community)?

Those are the preliminaries of your social good blueprint. Mix that with a little creativity, and you can find a way to embed an earth-lovin’ component. In case you wonder if this really works, think about these general examples and tell me if you can’t think of a brand that has adopted something that aligns with their company:

  • Restaurants who serve organic, farm-raised food, use menus made of recycled paper, or use green electricity to keep the lights on.
  • Clothing companies who use only organic cotton and work to minimize their carbon footprint.
  • Hotels that tell you to leave the towel hanging up if you’d like to reuse it (great PR, and minimizing their laundry load… Genius, right?)
  • Coffee shops that offer a discount for bringing their reusable cup (They save money on cups, the reusable cup gets seen more often, and might even bring the conscious consumer in more often)
  • Grocery stores’ isles whose freezer lights are motion activated (again, saving money and the planet.)
  • Insurance companies who give employees days off to volunteer.
  • Branding agencies who do pro-bono projects for non-profits who are directly making a change.
  • Any company who pairs with a non-profit to contribute double the efforts toward a cause.

The moral of the story: Everyone has something to give. You have 21 days until Earth Day to think about a little something your brand can do to benefit the community. Social good is a new asset for business models, branding, and you and me. Just let us know if you need help brainstorming.