Shahla Hebets, founder & CEO, Think Media Consulting
Why finding a cause to back is the strategy your brand needs now
Smart. Relevant. Authentic. When it comes to helping her clients create the perfect messaging for their brands, Shahla Hebets believes the aforementioned attributes are critical to telling the whole story. That last one—being authentic—is the one Hebets says every brand should embrace fully, especially in a time when consumers are selective about what they connect their attention to.
A highly sought-after marketing thought leader, the founder and CEO of Think Media Consulting, has helped a number of leading brands find their way through the digital noise. Over the past 20 years, Hebets has personally worked with brands like Kellogg's, Visa, Marriott and Apple, overseeing strategies geared toward creating distinctions and building long-term relationships.
Today, she and her team focus on creating authentic digital platforms involving content marketing, social media, design and ecommerce strategies that help drive revenue for wellness and lifestyle brands.
We sat down with her to get her thoughts on why it is important for brands to find a cause to stand behind.
Why is finding a cause to get behind good for a brand?
Today, virtually every market is crowded with seemingly similar products, which means customers are wading through to seek out differences. This equates to a general lack of customer loyalty and brand awareness. Aligning your brand with a cause or purpose-driven approach helps you cut through the market clutter by providing a critical distinction. It also breeds customer loyalty. More and more consumers want to support brands with a purpose. Today, doing good is good for business, and this is only going to magnify in the future.
What are the best ways to do this?
The most critical component is to align with a cause that your customers care about. In other words, you must be customer-centric and support causes that reflect your customers’ interests, motivations and identities. Social consciousness is part of their identity. The more brands understand this, the more they can show customers they value them through their purpose-driven efforts.
What are the benefits to making a cause part of your brand story? Are there any downsides?
Every brand needs a story (or stories) to tell, and cause marketing provides an immediate feel-good narrative. It resonates with customers who wish to see some good in the world. It also increases engagement because it associates the brand with a higher purpose or calling. All of which creates a lasting connection with customers because it breaks away from the traditional brand-speak.
The downside of purpose-driven marketing is that brands cannot fake it. It cannot be a campaign to create some buzz that is otherwise incongruent or perceived as inauthentic to your brand. We have seen well-known brands try to capitalize on cause marketing because they see it as being in vogue, and that always spells disaster. The customer has become quite attuned to identifying genuine marketing versus fluff. If the brand isn’t truly committed to the cause, they should simple forego the effort.
Why do you need the buy-in from the entire organization?
Aligning your brand’s purpose with your employees’ interests and concerns is equally as important as aligning it with those of your customers. They need to feel that it serves the company’s higher purpose, vision and mission. It starts by bringing your employees into the discussion and sharing your customer behaviours, attitudes and interests.
From there, your brand must see where your customers’ and employees' "social consciousnesses” overlap. Perhaps, there are several important issues, but it is best to start with one because it will give your team the opportunity to focus on a specific social concern and desired outcome. Once identified, the cause marketing partnerships, structure and contributions can be determined collectively. This is an ideal opportunity to bring your employees together around a common cause. It provides collaboration as well as community building. There is nothing like a higher purpose to invigorate your team, and cause marketing can do just that.
What is the true secret to get everyone pulling in the same direction?
Everyone should have a voice in the discussion, from entry-level employees to the C-suite. Inclusivity is the name of the game, and when it comes time to plant the company’s flag behind a social issue, it should be determined by the majority to ensure maximum buy-in.