Whiplash Team. June 2018.

Consumers have taken control of their relationship with brands. The emergence of new, people-centered economic and social models force organizations to assume their commitment to sustainability with real responsibility and accountability. Thus, confronted with users who when buying a product also, and more increasingly, want to know how their purchase helps society as a whole, the management and operationalization of the intangible aspects of the organization acquire more and more relevance, as BrandSmith anticipated at the end of 2017 in our study In search of the soul of organizations (Spanish).

We are witnessing the birth of a new era, one of responsible consumption. Organizations and companies face the challenge of assuming that they are no longer mere economic players, but moreover, agents of social change and this notion must lie at the core of their purpose and values. Value-washing is not accepted anymore. Users, on the other hand, demand it. They are getting organized to evaluate companies according to their social responsibility and sustainability, and are willing to exercise their power by choosing to fill their shopping cart with those brands that meet their requirements.

Reputation has become a main ingredient in the purchase decision. In Spain, for example, the 2016 Havas Worldwide Superbrands report revealed that two thirds of consumers preferred to buy products with which they shared values. The Spanish Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU), confirms that in our country consumers tend to purchase products or services driven by the reputation of the manufacturer. But the organization adds that responsible consumption is not only reflected in the choice of brand, but also in a change in buying habits: consumers are on the trail of local products that reduce the carbon footprint, while recycling, sharing or selling what we don’t use any more is gaining ground.

This growing and strengthening paradigm shift is largely due to social networks and a more collaborative economy. In the wake of technological evolution and Internet’s tsunami new business models have arisen and, accordingly, so have new responsibility tracking associations such as Rank a Brand, a community of responsible consumers that has been evaluating companies since 2009 through a public survey of 30 questions measuring their commitment to sustainability and their social responsibility. Most multinationals, such as Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung, Nike, Levi’s, McDonald’s, Nespresso, Wikipedia or the Spanish Zara, fall to meet the mark. Valuation systems such as those of TripAdvisor, Amazon, Air B & B, are another example how important online and real time reputation has become to consumer decision-making.

Just as social networks have transformed the customer-brand relationship, blockchain technology, a kind of virtual notary that will publicly simplify traceability of the products we acquire, will have an irreversible effect on CSR. Experts say it will bring transparency to the market, allowing consumers to know if a shirt, for example, has been produced following good business practices, all of which extends to other rather opaque industries.

Bearing in mind that, according to the Edelman 2018 Report, more than half of the consumers in 28 countries in the world believe that companies whose fundamental goal is their own growth and profit will end up disappearing, the need to integrate ethical and social commitments into the organization’s purpose while managing its soul with a sense of future is an imperative for survival.