I recently came across an article on Entrepreneur.com titled "You Must Do Good For Your Brand to Do Well With Millennials". It caught my eye because for awhile now I've been aware of the increasing importance of social consciousness in product development and marketing efforts. Through my participation as one of the founders of the startup accelerator program SparkLabKC, I've met many young entrepreneurs who believe a "social good" is an essential ingredient to the success of a new product. They've shared many reasons, both personal and professional, for the importance of developing new products that connect with consumers who are looking for something bigger from their purchases, and I'm convinced.
As I clicked through to the article, I was surprised and pleased to see that it was written by Christie Garton, a recent graduate of SparkLabKC, whose company UChic is making an impact through its commitment to doing good for its customers. By purchasing stylish UChic products, consumers can contribute to funding opportunities for young women to achieve their life goals. Christie is an expert at marketing to Millennials, and I'd like to share some of her thoughts with you. She writes:
More than 85 percent of Millennials correlate their purchasing decisions and their willingness to recommend a brand to the social good efforts a company is making. Businesses interested in selling to Millennials can't afford to ignore the opportunity to create social good.
As Millennials (the generation born in 1981 through 1996) come into their force as a major market demographic, product development and marketing has taken notice of their desire to put their money where their good intentions are. Products and brands with a social focus connect with Millennial customers on a personal level and earn their enduring loyalty. For example, Chipotle connects with Millennial consumers with a focus on sustainable, organic food sources that promote local farming and cruelty-free meat processing. Companies like TOMS Shoes and Warby Parker glasses have built their success on the "one-for-one" business model, where buying their product also means donating a similar product to a community in need.
Another SparkLabKC company, Life Equals, is pioneering the one-for-one model in the vitamin and supplement market space. For every vitamin a customer buys, they donate a children's multivitamin to an undernourished child in one of 44 countries and 33 U.S. states. Life Equals founders Kyle Fitzgerald and Chris Thowe have turned their passion for combating malnutrition into a great product line that serves both their customers and the world. I'm inspired by their example and excited by this rising trend in product development.
The 2013 Cone Communications Social Impact Study breaks down trends in the social good market and asserts that:
Social impact is the new standard for how companies address social and environmental issues to drive meaningful and positive change. When done right, social impact expresses the heart and humanity of a company, and consumers stand ready not only to engage with but reward companies for those authentic efforts and progress.
It also offers these five "Guiding Principles" for achieving successful social impact (the explanations below are mine):
1. Turn your stakeholders into partners by making their participation urgent and necessary.
Your whole team must be on board and invested in achieving your social impact goals. Communicate the benefit and impact of striving for a social good and make it the focus of your product development efforts.
2. Integrate social impact within your company’s business and CSR efforts to maximize potential.
Create a company culture that values social good and community participation. When your culture and values are in alignment, every move you make furthers your cause and connects with consumers in a positive, values-driven context.
3. Seek out new opportunities to innovate and accelerate solutions.
With every new product you develop, and every efficiency measure you put in place, consider the social impact you are striving for. Make every step a step forward towards your goals.
4. Explore new communication channels to broaden reach and appeal.
Millennials are a social media generation, and in order to connect with them you must be active in their preferred communication channels: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc… all provide a great platform for spreading your message and building your brand.
5. Provide ongoing and transparent proof of individual and collective impact.
Consumers want to see social good in action. Whether it's a blog that shares stories of your brands impact on the communities it serves or advertising strategy that highlights results of past campaigns, show your current and prospective customers the good that you are doing.
As Millennials increasingly dominate the market, I hope the trend towards products with a social good continues to rise. Let's continue to work towards a market in which ethics and innovation partner to create societal benefits and corporate profits.
How does your company integrate social benefit into its product development process? Let me know by tweeting @EidsonPartners!