According to a 2017 Cone Communications study, 87% of Millennials will buy a product based on values, and 7 in 10 Americans believe companies must take actions on issues that might not be relevant to their work. To survive in the 21st century market, companies are nearly required to implement social impact programs that resonate with this new and powerful wave of conscious consumers. But that can be a difficult hurdle to clear if your product or service doesn’t to have a natural connection to a socially-minded initiative. It can feel like a disconnect if what you sell is collaboration software, yet your CEO’s passion is about universal healthcare. How do you make a strong case for getting involved in education if the service you provide isn’t remotely associated with it. When you are a blockchain company, how on earth do you begin to map out what your social impact initiatives should look like.
Some companies have it much easier.
Patagonia for example, when you think about their brand, you think of crystal clear waters, untouched forests, and fresh air. Their product, outdoor gear, is exactly in line with their social impact plan. This deep connection between brand offering and social cause is a logical match and in some ways, allows for the consumer to easily remember both the product and the cause. It is easy to make the connection that Patagonia is the brand you use when camping in nature and the company that is working to preserve nature. Although, often, the connection is not as clear due to the either the product not being direct to consumer or the company taking a completely different brand strategy.
Nike, known for their shoes and athletic wear, does have a global social impact program which is focused on youth sports, yet, if you were to ask anyone in the past month about Nike’s causes most likely you would hear about their Colin Kaepernick ad. This controversial ad campaign which features Colin Kaepernick, former SF 49er, who kneeled during the national anthem at NFL games to protest racial injustice, has dominated many conversations. This willingness of Nike to take a stand and truly commit to a cause that resonates for them has had important economic returns. Nike’s market value has risen by $6 million since launching the ad campaign and just 2 weeks after the ad launched, their stock hit a record high, demonstrating that if a company stands for something meaningful, consumers will respond.
Here at Zendesk, our customers are other companies. And like most companies in the world of B2B, the connection between product offering and the corporate identity we want to showcase feels more challenging, less connected, less personal.
How we’ve managed to solve for this complex problem is boil down our service offering to what its meant to do rather than what it actually is. Zendesk software, at its core, is about fostering great relationships with customers. Boiled down even further, it’s about relationships. This led us to seeing our social impact programs as a means to promoting what we see to be an empathy movement. Sharing this narrative with our employees has been extremely successful. By volunteering and caring about marginalized populations, our employees have been challenged to understand empathy as it relates to building perspective, mutual understanding, and a long list of other soft skills that are the major philosophical components underscoring the purpose of our software: scaling empathy, even when tech is your only tool.
We would love to know how other software companies have forged a connection between what their product and/or service offering and their identity as a company. Hit us up with your stories at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet at us @ZDNeighborFDN.