Authentic social consciousness starts with your customers

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There are a few hard truths about today’s consumers. Yes, they are savvier, they are more outspoken and they know what they want out of a brand – but many South African consumers are also angry. They feel hard done by, ripped off and even abused by retailers, banks, airlines, etc.

Jacqui Maroun, Head of User Experience Design at NATIVE VML, says that although there is a definite move towards companies committing themselves to uplifting their surrounding communities, it is essential that they realise their first port of call, and in fact first responsibility, is to their clients.

Purposeful marketing 

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Part of Maroun’s role is to understand the motivations that drive human needs and behaviours. When looking at ‘giving back’ through the lens of the consumer, Maroun found that customers are feeling marginalised. “This might be difficult to understand in an era of supposed consumer empowerment where consumers can be heard more now than they ever were before, but there is still an underdog mentality. The customer is expecting to lose at the end of the day when dealing with businesses and brands.”

Brands are becoming increasingly socially conscious, but they need to equally align those values to their customers’ experiences. “Do good for your customers first. Ask yourself, can you meet your customers’ needs; do you give your customers value and make them feel valued? This is the first point of purposeful marketing,” advises Maroun.

A purpose-driven brand is geared towards attracting customers that share its values. This creates real relationships, bonding and a powerful connection that’s useful in doing good. When you have truly satisfied your customers’ needs, then broaden the purpose to the disenfranchised and unrepresented people in our society, the people, communities, environments, creatures who might never be your customers but who are equally worthy beneficiaries of the resources created by business.

Let them share the joy 

The next important step is recognising that your customer wants to be a part of doing good with you. Maroun’s research illustrated that consumers are aware of the myriad of CSI programmes driven by brands, but they feel that they’re being deprived of the joy of giving. “Although their money is being used in part to fund these projects, they had no way of feeling involved in the experience. It was a classic case of FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out,” Maroun says with a smile. “People have a sense of fulfilment when they are kind to others.”

What is this pleasure that is derived from kindness and is it contagious? Maroun says it is, and countless psychological studies agree. If someone received an act of kindness or if they simply witness an act of kindness, it creates a propensity to do more good. “This dynamic is called moral elevation. When you do an act of good, that sense of moral elevation compounds and this is the contagion that can spread. There is something important in our psychological make-up that thrives on doing good and being kind. If brands can tap into that correctly, they can use it to better the world we live in.”

Jacqui Maroun high resReferring to the My School My Village My Planet fundraising programme, Maroun says there are two things the programme does that are key to tapping into these insights. “The first is that it allows me to link into an organisation that is important to me, thereby creating a resonant connection. The second is that, through the monthly statements, I am able to track how much money is raised each month for my chosen association. This creates a sense of gratitude towards the merchants and this card scheme for allowing me to be a part of the system,” she observes.

Ultimately, your customer must be at the centre of your resources – not just their money, but the actual human being, too. A truly viable model is one that sees business resources geared towards doing good for customers and then creating ways for customers to ‘pay it forward’ into the communities and environments they care about.

“A perpetual cycle of kindness sounds like an authentic and sustainable strategy – one our world can only benefit from,” she concludes.

This article was compiled on behalf of Native VML by Cathy Findley PR.
Left: Jacqui Maroun, Head of User Experience Design at NATIVE VML


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