As organisations of all stripes jump on the bandwagon of mission-based marketing, it’s become embarrassingly easy to find examples of woke-washing, green-washing and any other kind you might imagine. Yet one can also find shining examples of those that have been able to maintain their integrity, build upon their reputation, and connect more meaningfully with customers over the long-term – a feat that can bring a host of rewards. Quite aside from the obvious benefits of greater customer loyalty, deeper brand attachment and increased resilience to economic downturns, having a strong track record is also known to engender greater understanding by consumers and stakeholders when mistakes happen – so how might businesses tailor their approach to foster and demonstrate their integrity?
Whether expressed as adherence to a set of values and ethics, or through an unwavering commitment to certain moral principles, such as justice, fairness and honesty, integrity is essential to our ability to form trustworthy long-lasting relationships. And throughout the course of my research for my book, Business Unusual, I found time and again that those businesses that were able to display a high level of integrity, abide by what I conceive of as the ‘four Cs’: commitment, congruence, consistency and coherence.
The first ‘C’ is about making an explicit (often public) commitment to the principles you stand for, whether that’s inclusion, respect, openness, honesty, fairness or any other cherished values. The second ‘C’ is about being congruent in word and deed, and aligning what you say with what you do. Far more than a cliché, walking the talk has been found to influence employee performance and even shape commitment levels towards the organisation. The third ‘C’ is about being consistent over time, and demands that we display the patience and tenacity to establish a strong track record that people can believe in. The fourth and final ‘C’ refers to being coherent in intention and behaviour, and doing the right thing for the right reason. Although it may sound a bit loftier than the rest, we’re actually pretty good at sniffing out when people (or brands) are doing something because it looks good (or because they are legally compelled to), and it is on this final ‘C’ that businesses often slip up.
Whatever your business or industry, as we continue to build our way out of this crisis, it’s clear that we won’t be returning to anything like business as usual. The world has changed, and if businesses are to succeed in this new landscape, then they must learn how to change too.