Business In The Conscience Culture
Technology has brought the world closer, turning it into a global village. Hyperconnectivity has had implications on all walks of life, more so on the worldwide economy. Businesses need to realign their strategies and principles in order to move along with these changes.
The Conscience Economy (2014) by Steven Overman discusses these changes and their implications on brands and business and guides on how to win over constantly connected consumers, who are more outspoken and discerning.
It focuses on how today’s consumers are highly aware and well informed about ethics, and how businesses need to be vigilant of the news about their businesses doing the rounds.
Finally, it shows the way to win over these acutely aware customers, by not obsessing with the bottom lines, increasing responsibility towards the planet, and never lying to them.
Naughty Is Just Passé
The stereotype of the bad businessman reached its peak in the twentieth century. Businessmen who would go to any lengths to win profits and cut costs, irrespective of the ethical implications, were admired for their bravado, with the mass media praising laurels.
However, today, the next-gen is keen to make the world a better place. They care about how their lifestyle choices impact the environment. Companies, celebrities, and even individuals are willing to mobilize to ensure that quality of life and working conditions world-over improve.
What has caused this change in perspective?
Thanks to the information age and the Internet, people have more information available to them than they ever did before. People are aware of regulations regarding honest product labeling, and shoppers have information about everything they buy, right from production and manufacturing procedures to their energy efficiency. Today, people prefer to buy products that align with their morals and values.
A high-priced, luxurious and prestigious, branded clothing will not sell if it has been made using child labor. In fact, today’s consumers will call out such practices on social media and will not shy from condemning brands and companies that resort to unethical practices in any form.
Therefore, genuineness has become an even more prized value and companies are striving to uphold these, and care for the planet and humanity.
Technology, Connectivity Lead To Empathy
Sociological studies have shown that humanity takes about 40 years to fully embrace a new invention. For example, it took Edison’s 1880 invention – the light bulb – forty years to be used in public spaces in 1920. Similarly, only 40% of the public uses the Internet, which was invented in 1990.
The Internet has changed lives all over the world radically and will continue to do so in the future when it is truly integrated into society. We are already seeing the radical effects of the Internet. In 2011, the youth of Egypt used the Internet to revolt; and mobilize a revolution that shocked its leaders, and allowed the whole world to witness it in real-time.
Despite using the Internet for only 20 years, we are already seeing promising interactions between technology and traditional morality. Yet, humankind still has a lot to learn of the implications and advantages of hyperconnectivity in the coming decades.
Connectedness and conscience go hand-in-hand. For example, babies are not born with a conscience. They learn about ideas, fears, and hopes as they grow while connecting and forming social bonds with others. Every religion, parent, as well as the education system world over, teaches children how behavior affects others. It is these experiences that help the conscience grow and develop.
The Information Age made the world smaller and has also made actions of people and companies alike have implications the world over. Increased connectivity has resulted in a stronger and more advanced conscience, creating conscience cultures that are shared all over the globe. This culture of empathy is spreading now and fast!
Global Challenges And Their Solutions
Climate change is an ongoing reality. Connectivity whether via news websites or simply connecting with friends and family overseas brings natural calamities on the other side of the world closer. It is difficult to ignore melting icebergs, drying rivers, and reservoirs because they affect everyone. Thus it is impossible to ignore the role each person plays in adding to the issues of global warming and climate change. For example, every time a person takes a flight somewhere, they add to global warming.
Along with the environmental factors, there is a disintegration of internal health as well. Cheaply manufactured food items and processed foods add to problems such as obesity and other related illnesses. In fact, health and global warming are the most pressing news seen on mass media, social media, and online websites world-over. More information about all these concerns is available to everyone and the more people learn about them, the more they demand solutions, a fact that companies and businesses must remember.
Due to this information available, the modern consumer is aware and concerned about the implications their lifestyle choices have locally, nationally as well as internationally. They seek these values in the companies making the products that support their lifestyle and are vigilant if these companies are unethical in any manner.
Companies that are conscious and responsible about ethical implications, have strong values and prioritize good causes over profits are the ones that will be in demand and will thrive as opposed to unscrupulous companies.
The Superseding Conscience Culture
Culture, all over the world differs in subtle ways, adding to its complexity. If we consider the United Kingdom and the United States, despite the language being the same, they differ in crucial areas. For example, an enthusiastic manager with a cheerleader-like disposition will be considered a good leader in the US, while the same manager in the UK will be looked upon as excessive and having strange behavior.
Additionally, cultures differ between generations too. For example, the difference in culture between Baby Boomers and their children is well known, as are the differences between Generation Y and X. Similarly, there is a clash between the established global culture and the newly emerging conscience culture.
While both cultures emphasize on self-actualization, the differ radically in the way they each view themselves.
The conscience culture sees the self as part of the collection due to its nature of connectivity with others. It views self-actualization as a collective process, i.e., improvement of others’ lives is seen as equally important as improving one’s own life. With this, emerges a prevailing belief that what is good for others, is also good for the individual.
The differences between the conscience culture and the global established culture are most stark when it comes to the way they perceive the environment – its preservation and protection. The awareness of the younger conscience culture about the fragility of the environment and how volatile it has become is in contrast to the way the established culture perceived it – that they could rely on the environment to feed their needs.
This awareness of the conscience culture is visible in their purchase decisions, where they are more conscious and prefer businesses and brands that environment-friendly.
Catering To The Conscience Culture
Businesses and brands, today, have to make changes to adapt and survive, as the conscience culture emerges and settles firmly. That said, understanding the needs of the conscientious customer by way of connecting increasingly shapes purchase decisions.
For example, given a choice between a brand that makes stylish products, and another, which works towards and supports sustainable development, and has won an award for design, the choice becomes obvious.
Branding orients people when there are a million options to choose from. Thus, if all products were to be of the same shape and color, without having any brand names, people would spend more time reading labels to differentiate and make a buying decision.
Brands, additionally, help people form attachments with manufacturers that are trustworthy and familiar, thus making the purchase process more efficient. Moreover, about 80% of buying decisions are devoid of reason or rationality and are highly influenced by emotions is clearly evident in the conscience culture.
Brands, therefore, target these emotions by creating an image that appeals to the empathetic emotions of the consumers. The conscientious customer will, thus, seek brands that resonate with their personal values.
Take, for example, a company that sells biodegradable bleach that not only kills germs, but also fights diseases, and protects the groundwater. This company additionally supports a health-related social enterprise overseas. Now comparing this brand to a brand of bleach that merely promises ‘whiter than white whites’, which brand will consumers prefer?
Companies and brands will have to factor in this new awareness of the conscience culture, and the affinity to ethics, even if they are merely selling bleach!
Social Engagement and CSR
Any company or organization is interwoven in the fabric of society. The people in the social work in them, people buy from them and companies use natural resources to function. It is therefore seen that companies, which focus on giving back to society, thrive.
Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR saw its birth in the Industrial Revolution when the inhumane conditions in factories became the subject for many writers and poets. The government then made businesses, factories, and companies prove that they were indeed socially useful if they were to receive the charter of incorporation.
However, it was in 1970 that CSR was considered an aspect of business, albeit a mere additional ‘nice thing’ to do alongside the business. Today, CSR is a vital strategy, as failure to be conscious of their responsibilities could lead to a damaged reputation in the conscience culture.
CSR, as a ‘being nice’ concept will soon be out-dated, and giving back to the society will be an indelible part of a successful business.
Matchmakers Of The Conscience Economy – The Marketing Division
While the conscience culture means a number of changes for companies, it means revolutionizing marketing completely.
Earlier, consumers had to be persuaded and even manipulated to buy. The famous 4 P’s of marketing – product, place, price, and promotion – were the front and center strategies that worked. However, in the conscience economy, these strategies will have the lesser meaning as marketing will need to be more interactive and accountable to convince people to buy. That said, marketing will have to be much more innovative.
Marketing will tantamount to matchmaking, wherein the focus will lie on creating products that fit perfectly between the needs of customers and the interests of the business.
It will require an identifying relationship that will help build business value. Marketers will thus have to make efforts to understand what people – customers, employees, leaders, and innovators – want and expect from the company. This gives rise to the five C’s – context, conversation, clarity, cohesion, and creating reasons – new competencies to function in a new culture.
To explain briefly, marketers will have to adapt to the customer’s context (understanding the customer’s mood, circumstance, location, etc.), converse with the customers to understand their values and needs in order to gain clarity about their wants. Next is to ensure cohesion between the company’s purpose, its brand image, and prospective companies. Finally, they have to create reasons for new conscious customers to buy, by encouraging existing customers or even employees to share meaningful stories.
The world has come closer to the Internet Age. People are more conscious of their surroundings, aware of their responsibilities towards the planet, and are unafraid to raise voices or empower others to raise voices against social injustice.
This new conscience culture comprises intelligent and inquisitive buyers, who expect that the companies and brands they buy from and associate with are aware and conscious of the impact they have on the social and environmental challenges faced by the world.
Brands and companies too, have to go that extra mile and align themselves with these changes that are expected of them. In order to be successful, marketing and selling in the conscience economy will require a more vigilant approach to how actions of the business impact the world.