The Brand Stand: Should your company put social issues ahead of profit?

brand stand

By Mark Schaefer

When I was growing up, I was always a person that led with my heart.

Even when I was teenager, I organized efforts to build a community playground in Appalachia, raise money for our local foodbank, and tutor kids in rural communities.

I was always looking for opportunities to use resources in new ways for social good.But then I got into the business world I had to learn some hard lessons. I remember a wake-up call when I was pleading with my boss over the phone about doing “the best thing” for the customer and him telling me that we had to listen to the numbers, not our hearts.

When I got to grad school, I was introduced to the lessons of economist Milton Friedman who famously said “a firm had only one social responsibility …to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game.”

This “follow the money” attitude was beat into me in every class, it seems. Sure, a business person had to be ethical and values-driven, but the goal was shareholder value. This eventually became my new business ethos.

Then about five years ago I attended a keynote speech at the SXSW event by a young man (I can’t remember his name) who preached that businesses needed to put the world first and money second. When I go to SXSW I always try to attend sessions that push me out of my comfort zone, and this one certainly did. I left the room thinking that this guy was naieve. He was young and full of passion but that is not how the business world works.

The revolution upon us: The Brand Stand

But in the following years … it turns out the young guy was right. He was on the cutting edge of a movement (as so many SXSW speakers are) and correctly predicted a business mindset that is more tuned-in to the world and social good.

I’m not sure most companies are ready to abandon the “shareholder value” model, but there is definitely a movement to create products and services that give something back to the world. Some companies are even taking a political stand (in recent weeks companies have taken a stand against the NRA and its gun policies, for example). Companies are taking a brand stand.

It is a new world … A new world that needs to be discussed on a podcast, and that’s what Tom Webster and I did on the latest episode of The Marketing Companion.

We also discuss a few quick items of interest like …

Push play and listen in on a fascinating discussion!

Click on this link to listen to Episode 127

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Many thanks to our friend Scott Monty for the awesome show intro. Be sure to check out his amazing newsletter The Full Monty and his new podcast available here: fullmontyshow.com.

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