I’ve mentioned in this space before that brands have a lot less – if any – control over how they are perceived by consumers due to the rise of connectivity among those very same consumers. That contention is supported by some research from The Society For New Communications Research which conducted a study on the topic of Social Media and Societal Good. Main conclusion?
The reputation of a company is no longer defined by what they “report” or what they “say” they stand for. Instead, they are increasingly defined by the shared opinions and experiences of socially-connected consumers.
You can read the study here. It’s interesting although not particularly surprising. While the vast majority of people still rank the quality of products and services are the most important reason behind how they form impressions about a brand, some other traditional factors are ranked way down the list in importance. Only 43% say that a company’s ads are either mildly or very important in forming impressions while 76% cite family and friends that way. While many brands are obsessive about their social media presence, only 28% of consumers use that to form impressions. Interestingly, since 78% mention the customer care program as important, perhaps the social media emphasis needs to be more about caring and less about sharing.
So while word of mouth matters, so too does how a company behaves in the world as a whole. We don’t yet seem to be at a place where consumers research a company’s social and societal impact before doing business. However, when a company’s behavior comes to their attention – maybe through a news story, maybe through a friend – news of the negative societal impact of a company has impact and more so with women than with men:
When quality and price are largely equal in a purchase decision, nearly three in five people report a moderate to strong positive impact on likelihood to purchase when they discover information on the positive societal impact of a company. 61% report a moderate to strong negative impact on likelihood to purchase when hearing news on the negative societal impact of a company.
So let’s behave, people. We are what we do, not what we say we are or will do. Our customers are paying attention. Are you?