Being an Unpolitical Business is Dangerous
Posted by Sadie Lulei
Life is a little too transparent these days. From an individual to a business, we are at a point where we are able to see through one another. It seems that the general population finds this as a detriment to privacy; however, I find myself grateful that it seems to work both ways. While it does turn my stomach to see ads for things I’ve looked up, talked about, and even just thought about, I think it’s beginning to work the same for businesses themselves. As we’ve seen over the later years of the 2010s, businesses that do not have direct moral standing in situations happening globally seem to lose business over it. That’s because as a result of the intensive privacy breach of each individual, we now realize how important we are. Enough so, anyway, that we’re being understood at an individual level by the corporations trying to sell to us. Therefore, we the consumer makes the rules.
That means that individuals go the extra mile now to know where their money is going. For instance, many men and women who use makeup know what brands test on animals and which don’t. Likewise, to this day I see people cringe at the sight of a Hummer, a car design that failed when it was exposed for how harmful it is to the environment. Many people know that if they want to go out to eat, there are certain places they can go and other places they can’t, based on their moral standing. It’s well-known about Chick Fil A’s donations to anti-LGBTQ organizations, predominantly in Uganda as of recent, and so you won’t usually find some of that demographic getting dinner from there. These things truly do matter and the consumer base is going to use their time to find out where to put their money.
In a time of great divide, it’s important that businesses don’t attribute to that by enforcing their values too strongly, but instead using the strength of values to communicate with the consumer base. What that means is that when a business is caught doing unethical practices, like testing on animals, the best possible response in order to save the business is to change. More often than not, it seems like the usual choice by businesses in such a situation is to hide. Hiding does not keep the consumer base on the side of the business. Thinking back to the recent Victoria’s Secret situation, that was a company that would rather cancel its entire runway show than to acknowledge the criticisms of the population. That was the most toxic action to take and as a result, the company may very well see the consequences of that. All that the criticisms mentioned was the lack of realistic body types, and being that they canceled the show before incorporating that, any women of bodies beyond the models’ type have said goodbye to their business with Victoria’s Secret.
With “cancel-culture” online, being that famous people and businesses are constantly scrutinized for past actions from before their time of fame, we have learned the idea of eternal becoming vs. constant self. Society is realizing that people really do change, despite the common idea that they don’t. In fact, there is no constant state of self and constant change is the only way to keep people believing in you or your business. While people may say something or someone is canceled, more people are willing to hear out an apology and want, more than anything, a plan of how to fix things. If Victoria’s Secret had tried to make a compromise, a plan of incorporating the needs of the consumer base, they may not have experienced such intense backlash.
With all this said, it sounds like I’m turning off the idea of being a political company with a set of values. The truth is, I think it’s the next step in being a powerful, lucrative business of the 2020s. It’s as simple as understanding what values are connected to the business’ product and finding a way to please people by understanding it. For instance, the greatest use of values in a business I’ve seen to date was Dove’s Real Beauty campaign. A company that sells products to women saw that women were noticing how harmful media and marketing was towards them, so they moved into the opposite lane. Rather than, “Buy our product to be more beautiful,” they decided to go by, “Use our product because you’re already beautiful,” which was exactly what the women of modern times look for. That idea was, of course, just as real as any marketing campaign, but being that it had a significant value in society, rather than just working on the psychology of the brain, it was important enough to make repeat-buyers of Dove products. That’s what values in a company does, it derives the purest form of loyalty.
Just like karma, using the power of one’s business to help with societal issues can produce a boomerang effect of an increase in business. Individuals want to help with charities or movements they care about, but it isn’t always easy to do. By spending their money on products they need from a business that believes in the same values, it can create the perfect balance of business and consumer benefit. Creating an ecosystem wherein each member benefits is the key to a business that never dies.