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Be a Retailer That Stands for Something

Standing for something as a brand is about being bigger than just the products you sell. Establishing your position on topics of social responsibility, promoting your brand values and culture, and supporting worthwhile causes through your philanthropic efforts are great ways to connect to your community on an emotional level and catch the attention of a wider audience.

Why are your brand values important to customers?

Customers want to know that you care about more than just making a profit. They want to know that when they spend money on your product, they are also supporting something they believe in. Appealing to human emotions also makes you more accessible not only to your target customers but also to a wider audience of people who share your brand’s values and support the same causes. It helps you become more than just a commodity and fosters brand loyalty.
Consumers also want to be able to trust the brands they are supporting with their business. The world has a way of eroding that trust, so companies have to be extra careful and deliberate in their positions and actions. What’s the best way to gain that trust? Be consistent, be transparent, and put your money where your mouth is. Instead of just telling people what you stand for through your advertising, show them through your actions. Then, keep going. Customers want to see that you’re not just making a show of supporting a cause or pulling a one-time stunt to win their business in the short term.
Demonstrating what you stand for gives customers a way to relate to you on a more personal, human level than your products alone can provide. If a customer sees your position and agrees with it, the connection they feel with your brand deepens and becomes more resilient, especially if it’s a cause they feel strongly about.

Chobani, a brand with a mission

Chobani is a good example of a retailer that has established its values and culture based on its history, as well as its product alignment. The company’s founder, Hamdi Ulukaya, immigrated to the United States from Turkey in 1994, purchased an old Kraft Foods yogurt plant in 2005, and launched what is now an international brand that generates more than $1 billion in annual sales.
Chobani’s brand values and philanthropic efforts are built on its roots in entrepreneurship and natural, healthy, delicious food. The company not only spends time and resources on volunteer efforts and charitable donations, but also supports and mentors other small food startups and makes a point of hiring immigrants and refugees. As its website says, “The most important thing we make is a difference. It’s always been about more than yogurt.”
These values and actions are not just advertisements or one-off publicity stunts, either. They are a fundamental part of Chobani’s day-to-day operations. “You can’t fool today’s consumer,” Ulukaya explains. “We all know when someone is BS-ing. It just comes across… When you are real, it’s easy; there is no pretending. The time that you save is enormous. So, I say forget about ‘bad’ or ‘good,’ just be who you are.”

What can you do about it?

Start with some company soul-searching so you can understand your brand essence. Talk to stakeholders and do an honest assessment. What does your company stand for? What are its values? What does your brand look like at its best? When it’s struggling? Make sure you’re getting input from every level of your organization in a way that facilitates honest feedback. Don’t just stick to the C-suite.
Then, talk to your customers. Find out what they care about. Where do they think your brand fits in? Where does it make sense for your brand to plant a stake in the ground? Real feedback from real people will be invaluable as you identify relevant, appropriate values and positions for your brand. Remember, authenticity is key. This is your opportunity to move and inspire people, but the positions you establish should be reflected in how you operate. Be ready to commit.
To learn about more of the experiences your customers are looking for, download our free guide, The 5 Essential Retail Experiences.

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Michael Newberry

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