Should your creative brand take a stand?
I am confident you have a stand on many issues about which people are talking. But does your creative business have a stand on those issues? Should it?
A new report by the PR firm Edelman, addresses that question, looking into the behaviors of “belief driven” consumers. This report found that a company’s stand on a social issues would affect the buying behavior of 64% of consumers around the world, up 13 points from 2017. That’s a lot of people. Here in the United States that number is around 57% — up 10 percentage points from a year earlier. The survey grouped consumers by how beliefs shape their buying behavior. Edelman identified three categories of consumers; spectators, joiners and leaders. People who rarely buy on belief or punish brands for taking a stand, Spectators, represented 36% of that global audience. Joiners, another 34%, will change their buying behavior based on a brand’s stand on an issue. Leaders have strongly held, passionate beliefs and the brands they buy are one important way in which they express those beliefs. Leaders represented 30% of the people who responded to the survey.
Let that sink in for a moment. Look across a room of 100 randomly selected people. Thirty of those people have strongly held beliefs about some social issue and make a point of buying products from companies they feel share those beliefs. Do you share their beliefs? Do they know you share their beliefs? Definitely something to think about.
Something else to think about is how important those beliefs are in deciding whether to buy from a business. Almost half of consumers surveyed said they would pick a product based on a brand’s stand on an issue alone as opposed to the features of the product. The stand that your business takes is almost as important as what your products do. This applies to creative businesses because your products don’t primarily address functional needs. What your product does is important. But more important is how your product makes people think and feel, how they want to think and feel, and how they want people to think and feel about them. Your stand on an issue important to them can help them find you, connect to you, and ultimately make the choice to buy from you. That’s an opportunity you may not want to pass up.
Taking a stand can be an important part of your brand. As with any other aspect of your business, you need to put careful thought into which issues are important not just to you as a person, but to your brand. How do you do that?
You may already have an issue, or issues, that are important to you. It may be something that are actively supporting today. If not, I suggest that you follow the advice of Todd Henry, author of The Accidental Creative. Todd urges creatives to find their passion by exploring three questions: What angers you? What makes you cry? What gives you hope? By asking these questions, Todd encourages us to tap into our compassion, our empathy, and our belief we can make a difference. You can use this framework to help you unearth the issues you are passionate about; the issues about which you can take a stand.
The issue also has to be something that your customers are passionate about. The power of reaching a belief-driven consumer comes when that consumer feels you share their strongly held beliefs. So how do you know what your customer believes? You need to know your customers. Knowing your customers, how they think and feel is a critical part of making products that satisfy their emotional, psychological, and social needs. You can use your knowledge of how they think and feel to zero in on the issues they feel passionate about. If you don’t know, then ask them: What makes you angry? What makes you cry? What gives you hope? Use this as an opportunity to get to know your customers even better than you do today.
Next, identify the issues both you and your customers feel the most strongly about. But be careful, don’t take a stand because it is what you think your customers want you to do. As the creative force behind the brand, you are your brand and your brand is you. Authenticity is crucial to a creative brand. If your brand’s stand is rooted in your own, you are at less of a risk of appearing to co-opt a cause. If you can’t find an issue both you and your customers are passionate about, then taking a stand might not be right for your business.It is important to make that stand a part of your business and a part of your brand. Communication is the first step. Incorporate your stand into your messaging. Make it a prominent part of your story. Make sure your customer understands not only what the issue is, but why is it important to you. Author Simon Sinek speaks passionately about how people don’t buy what we do, they buy why we do it. Articulating why you are taking this stand will help the belief-driven consumer connect with you and with your brand.
You also need to take a stand with your actions, not just with your words. A brand is not built by what you say; a brand is built by what you do. You can support that cause financially, but that isn’t enough. Just as you made the stand part of your story, you need make it a part of your life and part of your business. Purchase from suppliers who share your stand. Incorporate it into deciding who to hire. Use distribution partners who are also committed to the same causes. Incorporating your stand into everything you do shows the belief-driven consumer you not only share their belief, but take it seriously.
As the owner of a creative business, you have an incredible opportunity to connect with your customers by taking a standing on an issue important to them and making it part of your business and your brand. Are you taking a stand in your creative business? Is there a cause you are thinking of making part of your creative brand? Are you a belief-driven consumer who chooses brands based on what they believe? Join the conversation in the comments below.