We’ve all had the experience of shirking responsibility - it wasn’t me, I didn’t know, it was their fault. It starts in childhood and continues on - popping up when we want to avoid blame, think no-one will notice if we take short cuts, or stick our head in the sand as a strategy to avoid going the extra mile.
However as expectations around how businesses conduct themselves evolve and change, taking greater responsibility is not only the right thing to do – it’s critical for consumer engagement and long term success.
There’s been no more significant reminder of this in the past few weeks than the situation Facebook finds itself in as a result of its data sharing practises.
While facing Congress, one of the comments that stood out for me was when Mark Zuckerburg admitted Facebook hadn't taken a broad enough view of their responsibility and that looking back, this was a big mistake.
No doubt this is the case. Since the issue arose, $45 billion has been wiped from Facebook's stock value and the industry now faces the real threat of greater regulation. Trust in Facebook has also taken a significant nosedive.
This case has strong parallels with the history of food. Lack of responsibility in the past has been one factor that has contributed to the gradual erosion of consumer trust in the food supply. Marketing practises that have over-emphasized one aspect of food, while ignoring others, or over-exaggerated the benefits that may be obtained by eating a certain food, have gradually eaten away at people’s confidence about what to believe and who to trust.
In the past, it's been easier to get away with such approaches. However consumers are getting smarter, scrutiny of food marketing and composition is higher, and access to information is easier.
Food is under the microscope more than ever before so taking responsibility is critical to building and maintaining consumer trust and protecting brand reputation.
Here are some ways to do that:
- Think full circle: It is now more important than ever to ensure marketing teams have a deep understanding of the production and composition of the foods they sell. This includes understanding how the products are made, grown or produced, the nature of the ingredients, feed or growing conditions, where key ingredients come from, why they are used, and the nutritional value they provide. The ability to communicate more than the nutritional features of the end product, or the absence of an unwanted ingredient or substance, is critical to taking responsibility to meeting consumers growing interest in re-connecting with the source of their food.
- Pay attention: monitoring regulatory changes, public health campaigns, emerging nutrition research and future mega-trends is critical. This requires investment in looking outwards as well as looking inwards. Feeding the right information into your business and ensuring those who need to know are paying attention to things that matter in the macro-environment in which you operate is critical when the hustle and bustle of the day to day can otherwise take over.
- Lead through values: developing values around authenticity, honesty and transparency and seeing them through with tangible actions is critical. A more mindful consumer is looking to brands to connect with them in a more meaningful way and one way to demonstrate this is through developing and implementing values, particularly those connected with your food.
In a highly shared video on You Tube, actor Will Smith makes the point that taking responsibility is one way of taking your power back. He has a point worth pursuing. A good example is 7-Eleven's recent decision to take responsibility for its role in contributing to the 1 billion coffee cups that go into landfill in Australia each year. Teaming up with Simply Cup, they've introduced 200 special recycling units throughout their network. There was no need for 7-Eleven to do this. However as the second largest provider of takeaway coffee in Australia, the company saw it as their responsibility to be part of the solution. This is one way 7-Eleven is returning power to its brand after events in 2017 saw its reputation take a hit.
It's worthwhile considering - what could you do to take greater responsibility, above and beyond the everyday, and add power and meaning to your brand?