Customers expect a moral and ethical identity from corporations in 2021. Small businesses, just like big businesses, are now more than ever expected to assert their small business values with confidence. In this blog we talk more about this and how small businesses can share their values to build brand loyalty.
What’s going on?
Big businesses are taking a stance on human rights violations, social justice issues, the climate crisis, international conflicts, and even political candidates. What does that mean for small businesses?
For example, Ben and Jerry’s are famed for launching quirky ice cream flavours in response to major political issues. They’re quick to respond to events to show their support of “LGBTQ+ rights, climate justice and refugee rights”.
When Former President Trump was elected, they launched the flavour Pecan Resist.
“This pint was a rebel of the highest order. It had a powerful message about resisting the Trump administration’s regressive and discriminatory policies and building a future that values inclusivity, equality, and justice for people of colour, women, the LGBTQ community, refugees, and immigrants. And fudge, it was about fudge, too.”
What’s the problem?
Most companies with social media strategies will have a crisis management plan that guides staff to respond respectfully and swiftly if they become involved in a political issue. Historically, a brand appearing neutral has been an asset to a company’s image. Companies traditionally benefitted from appearing apolitical and therefore trustworthy. They were dependable, steadfast figures in an ever-evolving world.
Today, this is not a viable option. Customers label apolitical brands as apathetic and socially irresponsible. Companies risk losing their custom to their competition within the industry who have taken a stance.
Small businesses already have to fight for their place in a crowded market. They risk losing custom from remaining silent on large scale issues, but also have more to lose from asserting a social stance and risk being left on the sidelines.
Why the change?
Firstly, customers have much more choice, and brands are choosing to champion communities and social justice issues. This enables them to target customers with values that align.
Secondly, consumers are experiencing global political issues more immediately, more tangibly than ever. There is live social media coverage from around the world 24/7. We’re also spending more hours online, inundated with content. People feel closer to and more affected by issues they care about.
Therefore, customers expect brands to be involved in the stories that capture the Nation’s interest, to remain relevant, and set themselves either for or against these emotive topics.
When the #BlackLivesMatter movement came to the forefront of the news in 2020, global brands like Glossier and Lego quickly asserted their support. By directly donating to organisations that combat racial injustice, they could make a huge impact and assert themselves in support of an issue their consumers care about.
Small businesses must assert their values with confidence.
What should your company do?
Small businesses often don’t have this kind of financial power behind them. However, they do have much tighter ties with their local communities.
One fantastic way of asserting your brand’s ethos and values is to champion a local charity.
You could embark on a fundraising challenge, like our client Churchills’ Tough Mudder Challenge for York Mind. If it’s appropriate for your business and you interact with customers regularly, consider collaborating with local businesses near you to create a raffle in aid of your chosen charity.
For independents like cafes and artisan stores, your authenticity and local identity is a unique selling point. It sets you apart from the global corporations that are often on the same high street. Make the most of your status as a local company and work with local grassroots charities.
Can you team up with your neighbours?
Indie York offers an incredible Map of York’s independent businesses. It’s a guide for locals and tourists to experience the smaller indie brands in York which make up 65% of York’s shops.
They’re creating a network of small businesses that are “a unique assortment of specialist shops, award-winning restaurants, cosy cafes, characterful places to stay and bespoke services”.
Another great way to assert your values is to support other local businesses. By offering mutual discounts and advertising for each other in your spaces, both companies broaden your customer base. Furthermore, interacting regularly on social media helps to build trust between your audience and other local brands.
Can you share your space?
Another fantastic way to assert your values is to open up your space as a community hub.
Bluebird Bakery in York have recently launched their café in Acomb. Their bright open space is open to artists to display their work, and can be used as an open working or meeting place for local clubs.
How else can you show support?
There is no right way to show support for a cause; if donating money is not a viable strategy for your brand, could you offer goods? Your café could team up with the local school to donate near-perfect goods for after school clubs. Your financial advisory firm could offer a set amount of pro bono hours to locals who cannot afford your services. Whatever strategy makes sense for your business, there are many ways to show support for a cause.
Small businesses must assert their values with confidence. If you’d like to learn how to make the most of your brand’s partnerships through social media advertising, why not get in touch with us to book a training session to build your confidence?
You can also find a wealth of free resources for developing a social media strategy here.