Currently, stories about brands displaying great acts of kindness have dominated headlines. A few weeks after the Taliban’s invasion of Afghanistan in late August 2021, Airbnb announced that it would provide free temporary housing across the globe to 20,000 refugees fleeing the conflict. As other governments race to evacuate tens of thousands of their citizens, the property rental company called the displacement and resettlement of refugees a “significant humanitarian crisis” writes Eshe Nelson of The New York Times.
Adding to the list of companies taking action on social issues was Calm App, which in support of Naomi Osaka pledged to pay fines for players who chose to skip press obligations for mental health reasons during the Grand Slam in 2021, as reported by Faith Brar of Shape.
The typical tools brands use to distinguish themselves (retail environments, salespeople, packaging, etc.) may have been inaccessible during the pandemic, but brands can still make their mark on their customers by improving their digital experiences, customer service quality, and the social causes they choose to support.
Considering that your competition is just a click away and your customers rely on websites to evaluate products, what your brand stands for might become increasingly important in the future.
Despite these efforts being important to consumers, various smaller, everyday interactions are more influential in retaining or gaining new customers. Notwithstanding their smaller pockets, smaller businesses can still benefit from the heightened sense of community that they have. Consumers want to be treated with respect more than anything. Giving back to the community and being environmentally conscious are important, but companies that fail to provide excellent customer service run the highest risk of losing market share.
Brand purpose in 2021 should ideally combine these two initiatives. Promotion or advocacy of big social causes and showing humane empathy in everyday interactions with customers. Everyday interactions will determine whether customers are won or lost, and consumers will hold companies accountable.