Apple vs. Samsung. Uber vs. Lyft. Walmart vs. Target. H&M vs. Zara, vs. Forever 21, vs. Uniglo.
Global consumerism, mass production and digital ubiquity have left many prominent brands with less and less differentiation in the minds of prime targets, particularly Gen Zs and Millennials. In a world of increasing sameness, how can companies build a distinctive voice and presence that stands the tests of time – making them unique and different in kind?
Market leaders are working harder than ever to build distinctive and enduring brand equities, particularly when it comes to communicating their distinctive corporate values. For some, corporate social responsibility is something that’s been a part of the brand since day one, and it’s been successful precisely because they made their response to an issue an integral and recognizable part of their brand identity instead of a defensive tactic against criticism or crises. Since Patagonia was founded in 1973, company leadership has made a point to support environmental causes. Although Ben & Jerry’s now sells over $1B in ice cream across 35 countries, it’s retained a personal, small-business feel in large part thanks to the company’s historical focus on giving back to the community. Both companies have driven growth and created lasting social change by understanding the values both they and their consumers stand for.
However, not all social responsibility strategies have been as effective. Attempts to leverage corporate social responsibility can face backlash if they lack authenticity or are inconsistent with the existing brand’s identity, or if the voice is seen as a shallow representation of the Fundamental Human Values that motivate core targets.
Lessons from LLI’s brand building strategy research reinforce the importance of consistency, across all consumer touch points, and authenticity when executing corporate social responsibility strategies. It’s no secret that Millennials and Gen Zs prefer businesses that practice good corporate social responsibility. Lubin Lawrence’s 2018 Gen Z Report: “The Misunderstood Generation,” revealed that younger consumers are willing to base their purchases solely on this type of brand equity, and companies are responding. In 2013, H&M – which has faced long-standing complaints over the company’s labor practices – launched an in-store textile recycling initiative in which customers can receive a 15% discount on their next purchase in return for donating unwanted garments; Zara followed suit in 2016.
By using Experience-Driven Design©, businesses are able to uncover and build upon insights into prime targets' Fundamental Human Values and Aspirations. Incorporating these insights will create corporate social responsibility strategies that reflect the brand and consumers’ values to drive growth and create lasting social change.