More than Corporate Social Responsibility, Customer Responsible Experience must make it possible to reconcile innovation and societal commitments. So that deconsumerism does not mean a decrease in sales.
Brands have a new challenge: to change the course of history by innovating in the right direction. Only that! This adds a little pressure, certainly, but it is good news for any communicator who has one day questioned the meaning of his job or will have tried to justify it at each family reunion. The acceleration of climate change is starting a profound revolution in our consumption patterns and how we live together. Yes, the time has come: consumerism is no longer a distant utopia; it is a word present in half of our briefs. Brands will soon have to solve this equation: produce less while creating more value. To help them face the blackboard of the pre-apocalypse, they will be able to count on two playmates who also have a lot of catching up to do this year: innovation and branding. Innovation to think of more responsible uses, branding to embrace change.
For too long, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been perceived and practiced as a coercive approach. First, inside the company, where it is experienced as one more regulation to apply. Then in the eyes of the consumer, who receives a code of good behavior to follow obediently, without hope for a “return on commitment.” CSR must be scaled down to become human-sized. Individuals do not want extra stress, let alone guilt. They expect a value proposition: what do you bring me in my daily life in exchange for my good behavior? This is where design comes in. It can change our habits on a daily basis if it manages to offer us a simpler, more pleasant and inspiring experience. It’s time to move from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to Customer Responsible Experience (CRE).
Design has a key role to play
This “CRE” is the opportunity for brands, like agencies, to raise the level of design thinking ambition. It forces us to take a step back in the race for innovation. It invites us to question the usefulness of this umpteenth range of ice peppermint toothpaste with reflective micro-crystals. Because if brands do not quickly ask themselves this question, they could be taken aback by the radical response of citizen-consumers. For deconsumerism to not result in a decrease in sales, marketers need to restore value to what really matters in their offer. Innovation and CSR should be cross-cutting in any business. They should never work on one without the other. Innovation should always be responsible and CSR should always be inventive and empathetic towards the user.
Finally – and we could also have started with this – for this “CRE” to act as a real lever for customer loyalty, a brand should not seek to save the planet all by themselves. The problem with universal values is that everyone has the same ones. But the essence of the brand is differentiation. The best service a brand can render to its societal commitment is, therefore, to choose the latter based on its own values – and, above all, on the reality of its activity. Otherwise, this effort could be seen, at best, to be for vain purposes, at worst, for opportunistic reasons. When Airbnb engages in the field of tolerance and openness to others with its guests, it is more legitimate than protecting whales. Finally, a commitment makes even more sense and always creates more value for the brand when it values the purpose of its business. Try this at your next family dinner. Article published in Stratégies magazine on September 17, 2019.