MWWPR recently researched into the power of the Corpsumer in America.
Corpsumers were defined as customers who really care about the entire company. Its reputation, its values, and its leadership team, even more than they care about the products themselves. It is a big segment, estimated at around one third of Americans. That’s a bigger segment than Millennials. And a recent study by the Reputation Institute revealed that Millennials buy into the company based on their perception of the enterprise, more than their perception of the products or services. Business ethics and reputation are vital.
So which companies are leading the way? Absolut Vodka and Starbucks both stand out as advocating diversity, inclusion and LGBTQ+ rights. Rainbows are plastered over vodka bottles and on Starbucks menus, whilst they sponsor events such as London Pride.
US-outdoor clothing company Patagonia has built up a loyal base of consumers through championing environmental values, alongside its attractive work culture. Patagonia recently created green wetsuits made from renewable materials instead of neoprene, and runs a recycling ecommerce shop to minimise wasting materials. Patagonia owner Yvon Chouinard lets employees bring their children to work, and take days off to go surfing when surfing conditions are appropriate (its notoriously hard to get a job at Patagonia, in case you’re tempted).
Clothing store Oasis has partnered with the Zoological Society of London to support wildlife protection in the UK, along with the launch of an animal-themed summer wardrobe. And H&M recently ventured into sustainable fashion and improved factory production line conditions, having been criticised for both being at the forefront of a fast-fashion industry (the second dirtiest industry in the world, after oil) and for being involved with violent labour disputes demanding better conditions and benefits in an H&M clothing production factory in Myanmar.
And now, under heavy pressure from environmentalists, Coca-Cola the world’s biggest drink brand, announced it is to increase the amount of recycled plastic in its bottles to 50% (currently its around 7%). Earlier this year Greenpeace revealed that Coca-Cola is responsible for selling more than 100bn single-use plastic bottles across the globe every year. That’s more than 3,000 every second, with a huge amount ending up in our oceans. Coca-Cola needs to revamp its brand story to include environmental initiatives (as well as committing to more ambitious recycling targets) if it wants to keep hold of its consumers – myself included.
These companies mentioned are all large-scale, consumer facing operations, so we must ask, what about SMEs? What about smaller operations or B2B businesses? Should they care, and integrate ethics into their brand story?
The answer is yes. It’s common knowledge these days that to attract millennial talent requires even small companies to make attractive corporate culture visible to potential candidates. Everything from work festivals, annual summer holidays, charity days, and even saunas and meditation studios are now found as part of corporate offerings. Young people want to work for companies that care, whether it’s about diversity, LGBTQ+ rights, local greenspaces or charities.
Corporate culture and wellbeing is nothing new. Arianna Huffington attempted to crack into the £8bn corporate wellness industry with the launch of her company Thrive last year, confirming that corporate culture is big business.
It is common knowledge that Facebook celebrates an “awesome” corporate culture, including vending machines that dispense free Apple products, on-campus restaurants and gyms, and even school buses that ferry employees to work. Apple places employee creativity at its core, with innovative office spaces such as Apple Park, the multibillion dollar global HQ campus in California, and the upcoming European HQ in the Battersea Power Station, London.
But what should smaller companies care about? That depends on you and your product. If you are an FMCG producer or retailer, you could PR your environmental efforts. If you are a creative advertising agency, you could PR your initiative to improve employee wellbeing and foster talent or diversity. If you are a publisher, you could promote messaging around deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, and ramp up your suitability efforts.
But what about if you are an IT infrastructure company, or a location data company? Or a start-up with minimal resources? Then you could ask yourself, what do you care about as a business-owner? What do you want to make a difference to, beyond business growth? And what do your employees care about? If ethics are not currently part of your corporate reputation, you could start with small steps. For a few days a year, your company could support a charitable cause outside of the office, and promote this as part of your messaging.
As ultimately, Corpsumers have spoken, and it’s clear. Companies, whether small or large, consumer or business facing, selling products or services, should care about caring. Attracting and retaining customers or staff depends on it.
By James Gillies, Account Manager