I just finished reading the book Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy by Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel-prize winning economist and former Chief Economist of the World Bank. This book provides a comprehensive overview for marketers who want to better understand the economic, legislative, and political issues that ultimately created the social problems which led to the inevitable economic freefall and global recession that we are currently experiencing today.
As a byproduct of this unraveling, purchasing power was affected globally and corporations took a massive hit in terms of consumer trust. This is why there has perhaps never been a better time for marketers to be focusing their energies on fostering relationships and rebuilding trust through conversation, education initiatives, and transparency. It is therefore not surprising that the discipline of marketing has shifted from primarily a product-pushing model to now a relationship-centric one.
In two recent posts I have written about underlying trends in business affecting the discipline of marketing. In the first, I talked about the “The Greening of Global Brands,” which was a survey about companies who are capitalizing on the trend of becoming more socially responsible. Shortly thereafter I noted the emergence of the Cultural Creatives, a 50-million person strong demographic subset within the U.S. economy who shares a new and unique set of core values marked by trust, social justice, and environmental consciousness. It is time to now talk about a third trend: Conscious Capitalism. Below is a video from Whole Foods CEO John Mackey elaborating on this concept:
As alluded to the video, the three main tenets of Conscious Capitalism include that businesses must 1) subscribe to a higher purpose other than profit maximization alone, 2) have a stakeholder vs. shareholder orientation, and 3) subscribe to servant or conscious leadership as opposed to command and control leadership. The implications this has for marketing are vast.
The official term for this shift in business consciousness was referenced by world-renowned speaker, author, and architect of corporate transformation Patricia Aburdene in her 2007 book, Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism. From a more recent article in Green Money Journal entitled “Sustainable Investing: Putting the Economy Back Together,” Aburdene elaborates on companies that are exemplifying this trend:
Many top U.S. firms, companies like Medtronic, 3M, P&G, General Mills, Timberland, Whole Foods Market, Starbucks and others – the kind of firms that make the Business Ethics “100 Best Corporate Citizens” and/or the Fortune “100 Best Companies to Work For” lists might be called Conscious Capitalists. Perhaps half of the S&P 500 embrace one or more aspects of Conscious Capitalism.
Fine, you might say if you’re an investor, but how successful can they be if they are so devoted to these stakeholders? The answer if often “very.” Towers Perrin, the global consulting giant, reviewed the results of 25 firms (including Coca Cola, Southwest Airlines and P&G) that excel in relationships with employees, customers and communities. Over a 15 year period, the “Stakeholder Superstars,” as they might be dubbed, beat the S&P 500 by 126 percent. In Megatrends 2010, I cite several studies that illustrate the same point — Conscious Capitalists often outperform the market.
So how can marketers take advantage of such trends? Here are seven ways that marketing managers or marketing personnel can become more conscious marketers:
- Don’t assume you know your customer, engage in conversations and research
- Leverage social media as a platform for interaction with customers and gathering business intelligence
- Focus on long-term goals rather than short-sighted ones
- Create value in your messaging – no more media waste
- Be authentic; limit marketing automation
- Measure what you value and value what you measure
- Use analytics as baselines rather than guidelines
Remember: Conscious Capitalism is more practical and comprehensive than other corporate philosophies that are based on virtuous behavior and philanthropy, like Corporate Social Responsibility. It is meant to create an entirely new structure for businesses whose financial integrity rests upon a variety of factors rooted in trust, value creation, transparency, purpose, and empowerment.
Conscious Capitalism Resources