Convictions about issues run deep these days – or perhaps people are just more vocal about sharing them. It should come as no surprise that beliefs are more important than ever to buyers.
The 2018 Edelman Earned Brand report found that almost two thirds–64%– of buyers are likely to choose, switch, avoid or even boycott a brand based on its stand on societal issues, an increase of 13% in a single year. The tendency to buy or avoid a brand based on beliefs has become mainstream, transcending age, income level, and location. Surprisingly, the notion of vote-via-wallet is more widespread in many other countries than it is in the US. People worldwide feel that the pocketbook is a more direct route to action than the ballot box:
• 46% of survey respondents feel brands have better problem-solving ideas than government.
• 53% believe brands can do more than governments to solve social ills.
• 54% agree that it’s easier for people to get brands to address social problems than get government to take action.
Edelman also found that in influencing purchases, where a brand stands on issues is of roughly equal importance to buyers as product features, but is actually more important when it comes to advocating for that brand. While 26% would talk to friends and family or post/like/comment based on a product’s features, 32% would do so based on a brand’s stand, regardless of the merit of a product itself.
Taking action based on this data can seem like tricky business for a dealership. While brand and dealer go hand in glove, taking a stance is different for an OEM than a retailer, and in most cases, best practice dictates that keeping politics out of sales is advisable. Fortunately, as Richard Edelman recently mentioned in a CBS news interview, taking a progressive stand doesn’t necessarily mean taking a hard political position. There are plenty of relatively middle-of-the-road causes most people support. Appeal to customers on causes a majority typically agree on- access to education, for instance- rather than lean too far to the right or left.
Community involvement is nothing new to dealers- from sponsoring little league teams and “fun runs” for medical research, to providing scholarships and organizing food drives, dealers have been giving back to their communities about as long as cars have been on roads. Sometimes it may feel as though these efforts get less credit than they deserve, but as indicated by the Edelman report, beliefs are becoming more important to customers. While nobody likes a braggart- and doing good is its own reward, whether or not it results in sales- buyers support businesses they feel good about aligning themselves with. Communicating active, positive engagement in the community and society will likely become more important for dealerships in the future. Going forward, do some good and let your customers know that you not only care, you’re taking action. Dealer philanthropy is a tradition worth being a proud part of.