Thanksgiving, the December holidays, New Year’s Eve, and the time for new resolutions is upon us. When you’re thinking about the good you can do for others or the world, you probably aren’t thinking too much about your personal purchases – the things you buy for yourself.
It might make you glad to know that companies with a strong awareness of social responsibility are making it easier than ever to ‘do good’ while you do what you must, or for other people in your life.
Are you familiar with the phrase ‘social responsibility?’ It’s a term that refers to socially conscious brand strategies that benefit businesses, consumers, and the world. Socially responsible companies make it possible for consumers to have a positive impact on others simply by making certain choices in their consumer behavior. It makes people feel good about disrupting their usual purchasing habits and trying something new. Smart companies include social responsibility as part of a marketing toolbox of techniques and strategies.
Here’s just one detailed example of a socially responsible company and its marketing approaches:
This eyewear company was started in 2010 by a small group of business school students. They were looking at high costs and other barriers some people encountered when faced with getting prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses. Lenses and frames are often expensive. Getting an eye doctor appointment can take time. Many people have no vision care insurance. Traveling to medical offices and eyeglass showrooms can be challenging, especially for rural customers. After considering these and other related factors, the students changed up the expected process.
What Warby Parker did
The innovative company changed just about everything about the expected process for getting eyewear. They designed their own eyeglass and sunglass frames, and sold them directly to the customer online, not purchasing from other companies or having showrooms. Making these changes reduced costs tremendously for the company itself and the consumer.
Warby Parker set it up so that consumers could order five pairs of frames online, which were shipped to their homes. Free. Consumers could try them and keep the one they liked best. Although many people were used to buying things online, buying eyewear that way was groundbreaking, and therefore caused significant dissonance within people because it pushed them outside their comfort zones for that type of transaction. People understandably thought that to be so inexpensive, the glasses were made from poor-quality materials and/or shoddy workmanship. And eyeglasses are so important, how could they be trusted to an online purchase? Warby Parker had to reduce that dissonance and change consumer expectations.
How do you make people think differently?
It isn’t easy to disrupt people’s traditional buying behaviors. After all, human beings tend to be creatures of habit. To make consumers feel more comfortable dealing with the company, Warby Parker established very active social media channels on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It communicated with customers promptly, responded to questions, and invited sharing of photos of people in their new glasses and feedback about the buying process and merchandise. People trust word-of-mouth and recommendations from others in their social networks more than they trust company advertisements.
Warby Parker has a YouTube channel, where it shares information about the company, its products, its manufacturing processes, eye health, vision, and more. It demonstrates the company’s knowledge and authority about the subject of vision and eye care, instead of just trying to sell eyeglasses. The company utilizes social media effectively to communicate with customers, reduce the negative mental narratives people could form, reduce feelings of dissonance or being ill at ease with buying glasses online, and ultimately build brand loyalty.
So where does social responsibility come in?
For every pair of glasses purchased by a Warby Parker customer, the company gives away a free pair of glasses for a person in need. Impressive, right?
It is. The company doesn’t do it just out of kindness. Social responsibility is seen as an attractive quality by consumers, and consumers prefer to do business with socially responsible companies.
As social media has become a major part of the modern world, strategic marketing techniques keep figuring out how to make the most of it. If the company doesn’t leverage social media smartly, they’re going to suffer in the marketplace. The information I shared with you about Warby Parker and its use of marketing techniques is from the book Strategic Social Media: From Marketing to Social Change by L. Meghan Mahoney and Tang Tang. It was published in 2017 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and it’s available on Amazon.
A few other socially responsible companies
There are many other companies similarly concerned with doing good things for society and or for the environment. Here are just a few of them, and some of the ways they’re socially responsible. All utilize social media in ways similar to those I described about Warby Parker. Each company has a website where you can find out much more about it.
- Zappos, this footwear company has a Zappos for Good program that facilitates donation of gently used shoes and recycling.
- TOMS is a footwear company that gives a full third of its profits away to grassroots campaigns and impact grants. That means for every three dollars they earn in profit they give one dollar away.
- New Belgium Brewing Company is a Colorado company that produces all its own electricity through solar panels and wastewater energy. It’s on track to be completely carbon neutral by 2030. The company also donates one dollar from every barrel sold to support philanthropic initiatives.
- The Lego company is investing $400 million over a three-year period to improve sustainability of their products and packaging. The company is seeking to make itself as “zero waste” and carbon neutral as possible.
Cynics might say these companies are just doing good because it ultimately makes them money. That they profit off of doing good for others.
Let’s be thankful for the beautiful results of social responsibility. The people who get eyeglasses, or shoes, or clean drinking water, or any other benefit from it ultimately still benefit, even if the company responsible also happens to get marketing leverage, public relations benefits, or tax write-offs.
Do you know of any companies with great social responsibility practices? Please reach out and tell me about it … I’d love to know!