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The World of Business is Changing

18 June 2014 at 10:26 am
Staff Reporter
The worlds of marketing and business have changed, says James Meldrum, Founder of Wholekids, Australia’s first food B-Corporation, who looks at how to take control of an organisation’s brand during this evolving time.

Staff Reporter | 18 June 2014 at 10:26 am


The World of Business is Changing
18 June 2014 at 10:26 am

James MeldrumThe worlds of marketing and business have changed, says James Meldrum, Founder of Wholekids, Australia’s first food B-Corporation, who looks at how to take control of an organisation’s brand during this evolving time.

The world of marketing and the world of business have changed. No longer can companies rely on mass media advertising, primarily through broadcast television, to build brands and engender customer loyalty. We’re now familiar with some of the reasons for this decline:

  • The emergence of social media and content platforms (which has been a boon for nimble, conscious-led companies, while being a potential minefield for traditional Big Brands that have seen the media landscape shift under their feet and have only just begun to realise the scope of transformation);
  • The fracturing of brand trust – the piercing of the corporate veil through greater scrutiny of corporate behaviour and business practices has, in many high profile cases, shed light for consumers as to the true nature of “the corporation”;
  • The rise of the “conscious consumer” (and, indeed, the “conscious business”) has meant that expectations of what a brand should mean, what role business should play, and what depth of engagement that consumers want with a brand has shifted.

Businesses are no longer in total control of what their brand stands for – consumers can now just as easily elevate (or devastate) a brand.

And the list goes on.

So what should a business do? How can it compete to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of not only its potential customers, but also its employees, suppliers, local communities and investors?

The soil to foster trust, loyalty, commitment and love (yes, even love) is no longer found in the seeds of the traditional marketing budget, mass market channels and old economy way of thinking. The new way of business is to engage people by appealing to their intrinsic motivations. And this appeal must come from a genuine, authentic and values-led ‘business heart’ (or core).

To think of business has having a ‘heart’ is almost an oxymoron for some people, however we are witnessing the emergence of purpose-led businesses that very much view profit as a natural outcome of actualising their stated purpose and passion rather than the primary reason for the business to exist.

Daniel Pink has covered a lot of ground with revising modern motivation theory based on the insights of self-determination. According to Pink, the three key drivers of intrinsic motivation are:

  • Autonomy (the desire to be self-directed, to direct our own life);
  • Mastery (the desire to continually improve at something that is important to us); and,
  • Purpose (the desire to do things that produce something meaningful or serve something beyond ourselves).

The old economy way of thinking focuses on extrinsic rewards – give people enough money, a respectable job title and enough rewards for those who wish to work hard, and you’ll have a contented workforce. The same approach used to work for the consumer market – give them a product that does the job (nothing more), price it cheap, advertise the hell out of it, and watch the sales fly out the stores.

Trouble is, this approach no longer works.

The world of marketing and the world of business have changed.

And people have changed; or rather, the drivers of people’s needs have changed, both in terms of their expectations of the nature of work and the nature of how they see brands.

According to a 2013 survey of more than 120,000 people in the world, a staggering 48 per cent of employees are unhappy in their current jobs, up from 47 per cent the previous year. That’s almost half the world’s employed population being unhappy going to work each day.

As a business owner, you can’t hope to satisfy every employee’s hopes, desires and needs. The best you can do is to create an environment where people feel they have sufficient trust, support and freedom to want to use their skills, knowledge and creativity to the best that they can. And, importantly, to feel that their efforts aren’t simply lining the pockets of investors and senior executives. They want to know that their actions contribute to something more meaningful than just a financial outcome.

The same is true of consumers who are purchasing products based on their personal values, not just the monetary value exchange. They want to know what a business stands for, what its business practices are, how its product are made, and how it contributes to a more sustainable, fairer and socially equitable world.

The questions you must be able to answer for your business are: Why does my business exist? What is the purpose of my business beyond making a profit? Why should a potential employee (or customer or supplier or…) choose my business ahead of another?

Answers to these questions will be different for every business. But once you have clarity around what the core purpose of your business is, then everything else makes sense. You begin to lead from an authentic core, a genuine heart, and you start to see relationships with your employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders from a very different world view.

It’s the kind of worldview that’s driving our transformation to the new “conscious economy”.

About the Author: James Meldrum is a co-founder of Whole Kids. Whole Kids is the first food Australian food business to be certified as a B Corp and one of the founding members of B Corporation Australia. The company aims to bring about long-term sustainable change in the way food is sourced, manufactured, distributed and ethically marketed to children (and families).

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