In the good old days, corporations formulated their brands and corporate values from the inside out. That is to say, that the deeply held values of the person at the top insisted that the entire organization hold true to them as well. Firms such as Kellogg’s, Orville Redenbacher’s and a hundred other firms built by a single individual know, it’s all about character and reputation. They staked their lives on ensuring that the representations their products make must coincide with the displayed character their employees, stakeholders, vendors and hopefully customers. They wished to be known for quality throughout, to be good corporate citizens, known to be true to the ideals of our nation and the world.
Fast forward to today, and values remain at the epicenter of corporate character. If one were to inquire into the values of say, Starbucks, one would find that there is a way to create brand equity, to be true to corporate values, and be recognized for being a good corporate citizen, as well as a holistic citizen of the world. They were one of the earliest ones to tackle the fair trade concept, well before it was a “good idea.”
In an effort to grow their character, they made low cost loans to farmers in Africa to grow coffee, to be self sustainable and participate in the world economy. I am not saying that there is only one company on the planet that is consistent, what I am saying is there may not be enough companies that resonate with their customer base and the popular opinion of the marketplace that their company holds completely true to the character and value statements they produce through their marketing departments.
Sam Greengard, in his recent article for CMO.com states, “There’s no straightforward way to define the term “corporate character.” In many cases, it’s more a feeling than a tangible checklist of actions and events.”
Many, many companies embrace the notion of corporate character, of values that fully represent their inward beliefs, but all too often the values and notions the CEO holds may not necessarily be aligned with the corporate messaging that is expressed to the marketplace. It is truly a difficult task, much more difficult than speaking about it. My grandfather often told me that I should always “Do what I say I am going to do.” I merely call that philosophy follow-through, but I believe I am in the minority. How many companies are actively participating in the economy with a gap between their stated “values” and their actions? More than anyone could guess.
The arts and sciences of customer service, loyalty share price and corporate responsibility is a mixed bag of wants and desires, of actions and statements, and of true internal beliefs. High praise to the firm that can consistently provide outstanding customer service, on-time delivery, fair pricing, environmental friendliness and fiscal responsibility and still be true to their marketing statements. The marketing message is seldom spot-on to the behind the scenes or bypass the blind eye of the customer. Praise indeed.
Do the right thing; another motto from the wise man that raised me. I know he didn’t coin the phrase, but he certainly held true to its logic. A great example of this is Seventh Generation, a products company that staunchly believes in sustainability. They choose to do the right thing in every decision they make, always being true to their mission statement.
Joey Bergstein, the CMO for Seventh Generation states, “Although we could save money by using artificial fragrances—we pay $40 per pound for natural fragrances compared to about 40 cents per pound for artificial fragrances—it’s all about being true to who we are. . .Any short-term savings would be negated by the long-term loss in credibility.”
In the end, there is no certainty in creating and living values; it is up to the entire stakeholder base at any company. The values one expresses publicly must mirror the value statements whispered privately in the board room, the cafeteria and the hallways of a company, regardless of size and scope.
Good & Happy Marketing!