Whenever it comes to social change, the main question from marketers is: if we change our thinking, if we make social the driving element, how can we measure the impact? How can we measure the outcome? Where is the profit? Show me numbers. Indeed, the direct connection to business growth is difficult to demonstrate. At a first glance.
Why rethinking is needed
More and more companies start to address and incorporate social change. It seems unavoidable. But not that far that they really integrate it. It seems to be difficult to make social business or at least social needs the starting or even better the main point of business activities. Social change is still seen as a nice to have, meanwhile the big business is done as usual.
Social thinking and working with communities is widely spread: social media and mobile are the highlight topics at many conferences, digital teams have been set up inside the companies, own social media channels flourish everywhere, but the social ‘hug’, the rethinking of brand marketing is still far away. Business is done in a very traditional way.
“In any company, you have to go back to what drives people. Making more money or being bigger means less and less. Brands with a purpose … Are going to be more successful.” – Paul Polmann, global CEO, Unilever
Well over 80% of consumers from Shanghai to London, New Delhi to New York feel strongly that companies and brands must actively lead social change. And also governments focus on private public partnerships, but …
Why changing traditional marketing thinking is so difficult
There are probably several facts that make it difficult to marketers to change their business:
- Marketers in influencing positions today haven’t learnt and heard that much about social business opportunities during their professional education. Hard factors, KPIs, SWOT analysis, growth rates in terms of finance have been the successful factors for many years, the basis of every successful marketing activity. Rational thinking, calculating, contracting.
- Marketing success is measured continously, success is always an immediate success. The next quarter is decisive. That’s still the expectation. But social change needs time. In a short term based business world it needs too much time. Or better: it needs to grow, but companies still need to succeed now. Who ever would risk to much and what if gaining from social change takes too much time and profit does not grow as expected?
- Climbing up the scale of success is based on visible results, manager careers are quick careers. The average stay lasts less than two years in the same position.
- Social change needs an engagement plan, a long-lasting approach and complex planning rather than single promotional campaigns. A huge challenge! In times of economic crisis and limited number of people.
In a few words: the risk is high! But times are changing. The new generation requires more than traditional business. Companies that find a way to embrace social change and to adapt marketing strategies will be front runners – not now, but in a few years.
In the worst case marketing managers just close their eyes in front of the huge wave of social change and impact request. Raising awareness of what is happening in the world, finding and understanding social change examples from other businesses, offering social change trainings – that’s the minimum of what should happen now in marketing departments!