“Claire Burdett explains why social goodness is now a critical part of your company’s strategy for the future. Is your company helping or hurting the future – for its employees, its customers, society, and the planet? Not sure? It’s time we learn about why some companies succeed by spreading goodness, while others simply can’t.”
– Christian Sarkar, co-author with Philip Kotler of Brand Activism: From Purpose to Action – activistbrands.com – and founder of the Wicked7.
Social Goodness – the New Way to do Business
By Claire Burdett
I started researching and planning my book Social Goodness in 2015 after I coined the phrase and registered the domain.
I’ve published extensively on the subject touching on the different elements, incorporated the ideas into my training classes, and we successfully applied what I was seeing for our clients at The Media Marketing Co, but I didn’t quite get down to writing the book.
I think it didn’t feel truly urgent until, well, now.
Why now? Because the 2020 pandemic amplified and accelerated the trends I was seeing towards businesses being expected to be more personable, to care, to take responsibility, and to lead. In short, to be more human. In fact, it’s never felt as urgent as it does now at the start of 2021 when we feel threatened on every front, and many of us have not been able to rely on our leaders to act in our best interests.
If nothing else 2020 gave many of us time to catch our breath. To reflect on what we are doing and how we are treating other people and the planet – and most people didn’t much like what they saw.
Google found that one of the most globally searched-for terms in 2020 was “how to help...” whether that was how to help Beirut, Australian bush fires, the NHS or every other crisis we faced. Then there was allyship, as in “how to be a good ally”, which was searched for more often than “how to be an Influencer“ , while “how to donate” topped “how to be a millionaire“ . “How to volunteer”, and – very telling – “how to change the world”, which was searched for twice as often as “how to go back to normal.”
Then there’s the planet and the pressing urgency of climate change. The world around us isn’t exactly dying, more being murdered by companies (especially corporations) and governments, as well as individuals. People are anxious and scared and are coming together to make things better and are particularly looking at brands. Not just to stop them from making things worse, but expecting them to step up and help solve the issues in every area, from environmental, to society, through governance.
I’ve seen it coming up everywhere.
There was my usual ‘keep a finger on the pulse’ on marketing, amplified 10-fold when we set up Social Media Genius Week in June 2020 to help businesses survive by understanding what is required for a brand to resonate online and so become loved. Because it’s only by being loved that a company can expect people to recommend, engage, and help it become visible.
I saw it coming through in all the radio shows I did with local individuals, charities, and businesses, and in the Black Lives Matter community solidarity event I helped organise. I heard it in all the webinars and events I attended as part of the due diligence and research I was doing for our new baby business. I faced it in my personal life, as we all did this year, especially when I was deciding which companies I would support with purchases, investments and donations every week of 2020.
The trend I had been tracking throughout the 21st century had turned into a tsunami.
People in different niches named the bits they were seeing or were working on. ESG (Environment, Society, Governance) profiling in the financial world. Sustainability and resilient supply chains in manufacturing and meaningful purchasing retail. Humaning in marketing. The Kindness Economy and Betterment. Social advocacy. Corporate responsibility, ethics and compliance, social responsibility, brand activism and issue fluidity in the wider business community.
The New Normal
The world has shifted and we have a new normal. Now people judge businesses by their actions – they move towards people who are doing good and being lovely because it makes them happy, they cherish those with whom they have a connection and a rapport. They share what makes them smile or laugh and they celebrate what inspires.
If people see organisations that are stupid, vile, selfish, greedy or anything not good, they will move away and avoid them at lightning speed. And it doesn’t matter how good the service or product is – although if that’s bad, that influences their decision as well, obviously.
But it has to be real because people can smell fake at a thousand metres, and we ALL hate it.
On Being Authentic
‘Grating fakeness’ is a term that I heard recently that really sums it up, while Doug Kessler in his interview with me for Social Media Genius Week talked about all those brands we know – and hate – who “do ‘authenticity'” (quotation marks essential), rather than just being authentic.
People today also won’t use a brand whose ethics they disagree with, and especially not if they find the leadership’s views or actions distasteful or abhorrent, because, why would you? There’s so much choice it’s not like you have to, is it?
On the other hand, consumers will flock to brands and demonstrate great loyalty where brands:
– show that they are walking the talk, acting on their values and not just having them mothballed somewhere in the marketing file.
– actively demonstrate that they are genuinely championing equality and ethical behaviour, doing good within their communities, and being a voice piece for the causes and concerns of their consumers.
– build true emotional connections with their audience and community.
Why Lego is Loved
If you had any doubts about any of this, it was beautifully demonstrated in 2020 by Lego. They were quick to act in response to the death of George Floyd and #BlackLivesMatter, stopping police toy marketing and advertising and donating $4million to charities supporting Black children and tackling racism. And then at the end of the month this happened:
In other terms, when brands are being responsible, caring, HUMAN and using their influence and wealth for good, they become respected and LOVED.
And while you are unlikely to be in Lego’s league, their example shows that it makes excellent commercial sense to embed Social Goodness in to your company DNA, especially in the challenging times we all find ourselves. In fact, to not prioritsie Social Goodness in your business strategy puts you at increasing risk of becoming redundant, ignored, even attacked on social media and boycotted.
The book is scheduled to be published at the end of February 2021. Please do check out the website at socialgoodness.co.uk and register your interest to be the first to get publication notifications and special release pre-order bonus material.
To your continued success.