Cruelty free, vegan, non GMO, locally sourced, hand made and so on...
There was a time when these were just fancy words associated with a few high end brands, not anymore though. Thanks to an increase in our collective awareness, people are making conscious choices. Brands demonstrating strong social responsibilities are the ones that are being rewarded with both increased respect and increased profits. This is because, as consumers we have become more aware and are making informed choices.
What is making us a better consumer is an effect called the Noble Edge effect. Whenever you feel more inclined to choose a brand or a business that is more mindful, it is the Noble Edge effect talking.
This effect can be seen everywhere. For example, if given an option we will always choose a lipstick brand that is cruelty free (we all do love Beagles, don’t we!) or pick a store that gives back to the society. Similarly, in the bigger race, brands that engage a lot in philanthropic work have an edge over their competitors.
Why do you think this happens?
There is an interesting bias in Psychology called The Halo Effect. Interesting, not because Beyoncé has a song called Halo, but because this effect has huge implications on our day to day lifestyle.
The halo effect is a type of cognitive bias in which our overall impression of a person influences how we feel and think about their character. For example, attractive people are assumed to be smarter and more likeable. Similarly, we tend to get influenced by our favourite celebrities and end up buying products endorsed by them.
The Noble Edge effect is an extension of this bias. Whenever we come across a brand with very noble intentions, we assume that their product/service will also be superior. Sadly, this is not always true.
You will also come across brands that pretend to care. It is not enough for a brand to simply make a charitable donation. For this effect to really work on people, brands actually need to start caring. For example, Bumble, recently decided to take a week off to help their ‘burnt-out’ employees. It is a very good initiative, but is it enough? I hope they have more long-term interventions to maintain a good work-life balance for their employees.
As a consumer, you should be aware of this effect. It will help you make better decisions. However, as a brand owner or a marketing expert, why should you care?
As I said before, the Halo effect and by extension the Noble edge effect has huge implications on our day-to-day lifestyle. If you are smart about it you can use them to your advantage. Here are a couple of things that you can do -
Start caring (For real!) - I am not asking you to mindlessly jump on every trend train. As a brand, take a step back and shortlist a couple of problems that you really care about. Pick one or two problems that have a personal connection to the brand or problems that are in line with your core values. If inclusivity is one of your core values, you could look at the Black lives matter movement or if you have a beauty brand you could partner up with PETA.
Please know that your customers are not stupid. They can and will see through your charade. Pretending to care, to give your brand a boost or to make your company look better, will do more harm than good.
Communicate - Already done the first step? Great, but don’t stop there. How will your customers know about your good deed? Communicate! Talk about your CSR initiatives, your partnership with NGOs or charity organizations and any other form of philanthropic activities. Create dialogues on your social networking sites around the chosen issue. You can be as creative as possible - conduct live sessions with the respective representatives, involve your employees - ask them to volunteer. Don’t be shy, you should show off the impact of your work with pride.
No matter what you do, just be honest and transparent with your customers. Nobody likes being lied to.
Quick takeaways -
When companies demonstrate social responsibility that is perceived as genuine by consumers, they are rewarded with increased respect, and greater profits. That’s the noble edge effect.
The halo effect is a type of cognitive bias in which our overall impression of a person influences how we feel and think about their character.
The noble edge effect is an extension of the halo effect.
The noble edge effect can be used as the guiding principle while making CSR strategies.
One last thought -
Almost all businesses know that customers want transparency. But it’s easier said than done. It’s hard enough for businesses to be fully transparent with themselves, being transparent with their customers is another ballgame in itself.
It is a difficult deed but it doesn’t mean that you can drop the ball. Here is how, being transparent to your customers can help you -
Being honest about your product/service and setting realistic expectations with your clients can really help you set yourself up for success. Remember, honesty doesn't kill cats :p
Being more transparent can help increase your efficiency. You will spend less time defending your claims. Because your customers will have a realistic expectation, you will also spend less time beautifying your product.
Most importantly, you will build loyal customers, everywhere you go. Your customers will reciprocate the trust and will appreciate the brand more.
I hope this gives you a push to make better choices!