Consumers can buy the same brands at any number of places. In that regard, the brands that a retailer sells are commodities. Rather than be one of many destinations to buy brands, use purpose to become the chosen destination.
The days when cost and quality were the best ways to differentiate and gain competitive advantage are over. Brand development and storytelling have entered a new era for retailers, as well as brands. Today, purpose trumps quality and cost. Chico’s, a woman’s fashion retailer, has donated nearly $8 million since 2004 to Living Beyond Breast Cancer, helping bring support to more than 1 million women and their families. That purpose-driven commitment has made an important difference in the lives of women all across America, and by association has changed the shopping preference of millions of customers who want to spend their money where it does good beyond the purchase of items.
Consumers are making choices to spend their money with retailers who use part of their profits to help make life better for others. This is why retailers need to look beyond the basic function of the products and brands they sell to see the real life, day-to-day impact that sharing the profits from selling those product and services can have on the lives of their customers.
More and more retail brands are taking a stand on real-life issues such as medical research, youth sports, helping the handicapped, domestic violence, gay marriage, gun control, equal pay or sexual harassment in the workplace. The list of relevant issues is ever changing. Don’t wait for a public controversy to force you to decide where your brand stands on an issue. Attempting to please everyone by attempting to remain neutral is yesterday’s thinking.
Instead, we suggest you go through the exercise of thinking through these issues with this question in mind: “What is the right thing to do to connect to your customer’s heart, regardless of the bottom line?” Bold, purpose-driven brands display intellectual curiosity, transparency and an unwavering faith that they’re doing the right thing. If they have aligned themselves in deed, not just rhetoric, with a cause that reflects the ambitions of their customers, they will gain a competitive advantage.
The opportunity is for all brands to become more adept at conversation and seeking permission rather than bombarding people with interruptive messages about saving money.