The People-To-People Connect

A few things have happened thanks to the internet and social media–we know more, we communicate more and we are more global in our views. With news and happenings that happen in one part of the world zipping through, above, and under planet Earth with the speed of light to the rest of it, everyone has easy access to stories and other people’s lives epoch moments like never before. Said differently, it means we are in our echo chambers, but very importantly we care more.

This care extends to people around us, care  for what we do as well as care  for the world that we live in. It means we want to interact with brands that align with what we care for. The modern consumer is very different from the consumer, say, 20 years ago.

I fundamentally believe that people are smart- they understand brands make money by giving them a product or service. They understand that sometimes this is at the expense of their own privacy. But what they do not want is to work with or buy from organizations that are diametrically opposed to what they stand for.

When Donald Trump issued the first immigration order last month, taxi drivers in New York decided to protest by stopping the service for one hour at the JFK airport. Lyft-an Uber competitor-decided to stand in solidarity with the taxi drivers, but Uber continued to pick passengers up, with surge pricing. Lyft also announced a million dollar commitment to the American Civil Liberties Union in that moment.

That situation created diametrically opposite reactions for Uber and Lyft, causing thousands of users to switch from Uber to Lyft with #DeleteUber trending on social media. A couple of days later the CEO of Uber stepped down from a Trump advisory panel he was part of due to the public pressure at the time.

Closer to home, Pavithra and Ashok run a business called Vindhya. It is effectively a BPO that mostly employs more than a thousand differently abled people. The few times we have made introduction to potential consumers, the prospects and companies have gone out of the way to consider Vindhya  when choosing a partner for their organization. These people want to work with a company making a difference in the world and Vindhya certainly does that. It has to be clear though that the brand has to truly care as part of its values. It cannot be a cause they contribute to because they need to or as a marketing campaign.

Today’s consumer is incredibly smart and can see through things like never before. This also means that brand must identify archetypes within their organization they want to model. If, as a brand, you want to do good in the civil society or for your customers, you have to have people creating that good who genuinely care.

You have to use the archetypes as a template for the rest of the organization to model. Only then can you truly reach a place where your end users trust you. It is better not to go out of your way to act beyond your self-interest if you do not mean it. The cliché is true – it takes years to build a reputation and only minutes to destroy it.

That people–to-people connect needs to shine through in a way that not just one strata of society is onboard but the brand ensures it is appealing across the board to all or at least most of its target audience. I come back to the point  of “meaning it”. Care naturally needs to be taken to ensure the message going across to the wider world is well thought out and  give the perception of genuineness.

The article originally appeared in The Brand Trust Report, India Study 2017 here.

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