Believe it, or not… Of late, there has been much discussion about the precipitous decline of trust in US society. Trust in our institutions, companies, the media, in each other. Numerous studies confirm that the degree to which we believe what is told us, for the most part, is a result of our age.
Generally speaking, Baby Boomers grew up in an environment of family stability, widespread prosperity, cultural cohesion and optimism. For Millennial and Generation Z, their upbringing and world view has been shaped by a loss of these qualities, counting terrorism, financial collapse, looming climate change, a global pandemic and extreme political division on their watch. So it’s not all that surprising that these groups have different belief systems that impact their behavior and ability to trust and demonstrate loyalty to individuals, much less corporations or institutions.
For many large corporations, trust is something that has historically been taken for granted. For decades, people believed what they were told in ads or on labels; they trusted that the products they purchased were safe for them and for the planet. Consumers demonstrated loyalty and companies grew and profited off of inherent trust.
But today, as spending power shifts from Baby Boomers to Millennials and Gen Z, trust and loyalty must be earned, and it’s going to take a lot more than a good slogan and a celebrity endorsement to turn their heads. In addition to making great products, companies will need to establish and promote their own belief system, bringing it to life out in the real world.
Brand alignment is the concept that all parts of a business should be built around the same ideas and promises – this includes the company’s operations, culture, products as well as customer experience. The concept is not new, but it is increasingly relevant today as customers expect consistency and authenticity in all interactions with the brands they choose.
An historic, large-scale Gallup survey found that “Consumers who were already familiar with a brand and who successfully aligned with its brand identity rewarded those brands with double the share of wallet compared to consumers who were equally familiar with but not aligned with the brand.”
Beyond share of wallet, brand alignment has the power to energise consumers and employees, create brand evangelists and drive growth. Except it’s more common to see a disconnect between the brand promise and practices. In fact, while any founder or CEO can probably tell you what their brand stands for, their employees may struggle to follow suit.
As you might expect, aligning with a brand’s values matters most for younger consumers, but across age groups, modern consumers are exercising their right to choose brands that share the same ideologies.
If you’re asking yourself, why would someone care whether the company that makes their laundry detergent is pro choice or not? A surprising study from social media platform Sprout Social found that most people believe brands should take a stand – publicly – on everything from human rights to gender equality to poverty.
So, if consumers want to support brands that share their values, but are reluctant to trust them, how can companies show that they really walk the walk and earn customer loyalty?
Be the change
Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
Worldwide, over 3,500 B Corps are redefining success in business and working to solve the world’s problems. To attain B Corp status, they must – among other requirements – achieve a minimum score on the B Impact Assessment. The assessment is a rigorous evaluation of their impact on workers, customers, community and environment. It doesn’t just evaluate a product or service, but the overall positive impact of the company that stands behind it. Their scores are publicly available on bcorporation.net.
When it comes to fair and equitable business practices, transparency and accountability, B Corps have set new standards for the world to follow.
Are B Corps the answer to consumer mistrust in corporations? Can they convince people that for-profit companies can benefit all stakeholders, not just shareholders? Can they get people to rally around their ideas to better the world? The answer is yes, but we need more of them. The first B Corp was certified in 2007, and today the majority are small businesses, but the movement is growing.
What matters to consumers is changing – and to gain the trust and loyalty of a new generation of consumers, businesses need to understand what they care about. They need to be able to demonstrate what they are doing beyond what they sell. And they need to be able to communicate effectively to spread the word. B Corps have the power to restore some of the faith in business, showing that we can work together to solve some of the big problems that we face, and restore some optimism for the future.