I recently came across a major marketing study conducted by this big public relations firm called Edleman. They interviewed 8000 people. And they found that 86% of us want to do business with companies that have a “noble purpose” – one that goes beyond selling stuff. 86%!
As if it isn’t hard enough to convince us their products will grow more hair, lose more weight and create less worry when we need an erection. Now companies have to demonstrate that they care about us as much as they care about making money. It’s as if brands are more like organized religions. Choosing between coffee shops is like deciding whether you want to believe in the gospel according to Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts.
Have we consumers turned into social responsibility freaks? Used to be when you were asked”Paper or plastic?”, you could pick plastic without getting stink eye from the person next in line. I mistakenly parked in a handicap spot the other day. I received a note under my windshield wiper that read “I was going to tell you not to park in a handicapped zone, but then I realized that includes the mentally handicapped too.” Clever.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s a Darwin thing. Have we evolved into eco-sexual, howling joiners who want the companies we do business with to become causes that make the world a better place? But then, maybe it’s something else. We’ve got a Presidential candidate gaining support who sells ties made in China and who complains that our country is being destroyed by cheap Chinese labor. Perhaps it’s just that we have different standards for the people who could run our country than for companies that could improve our lives.
Whatever the reason, the days when the Mcdonald’s menu board didn’t have to remind us that our Big Mac is 583 calories have gone the way of walking a mile for a Camel. Gone too are the days when employees are more interested in making money than they are in working for a company that is driven to support a meaningful reason for being. According to this same Edleman study, the more purposeful company is one that is going to do a better job of recruiting.
Companies can always stick their head in the sand and pretend this trend does not exist. But that would only make for a bad hair day – or an itchy bald spot. In truth, however I’m not sure companies have much choice.
As for us consumers and employees, it’s a new world for us too. And one that is going to take some getting used to. Imagine… companies with a conscience. Companies that actually think of us as human beings first and consumers second. What’s next? Honest politicians?