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What does your business stand for?

Sometimes you see something that helps put into perspective a whole class of behavior that makes no sense. I’m talking about the bland kind of corporate good citizenship that is stamped out by a cookie cutter and could easily be grafted on to any business. Does your company constantly make donations to worthy causes? Does it show everyone how it is going green? If your company really stands for something, then carbon copy humanitarianism doesn’t really cut it.

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All this was brought to mind as I flipped through Consumer Reports recently. The magazine poked fun at a manufacturer of a doggie shampoo that bragged that its product had undergone no animal testing. This might be one product that you’d want to test on animals, no?
And that’s the point. While proclaiming products free of animal testing is a nice bland corporate citizenship stance, it was copied out of the standard issue company goodness catalog, and makes little sense in this situation. Now, there might be a great story to tell about the kinds of testing that was done, or the kinds of testing that was avoided, but that’s not part of cookie cutter good citizenship. That kind of claim would actually require your company to stand for something.
And plenty of companies that make human cosmetics or pharmaceuticals can stand for something with the same “no animal testing” claim—it’s an absolutely wonderful thing to stand for—but not a doggie shampoo maker. Which again is the point. Your corporate citizenship needs to fit you and your business, not be some kind of generic checklist that could have come from any random company.
Don’t get me wrong. In no way am I criticizing companies for any of these good things they do. It’s certainly better than so much of the bad behavior that we’ve seen from corporations over the years. But the repetitive list of good causes and environmentally friendly and other uncontroversial niceties don’t distinguish your business either. Don’t let your customers file you away as the same as everyone else. Your citizenship activities should differentiate your business the same way you strive to be unique in your offerings and your marketing.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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