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Connecting the Consumer to the Message

Asha Chaudhary Guest ColumnistAsha Chaudhary Guest Columnist
Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms shoes, attributes much of his business success to his social business model: "[People] had never heard about someone giving something away every time they sold something."
     With the massive success of Toms, the company that gives one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of Toms sold, businesses in all markets are recognizing the impact on sales when their products "do good" and are socially responsible.
     Jaipur Rugs was founded as a socially-based business. A significant portion of the company's profits go back into the hands of the company's talented Indian artisans in the form of life-changing programs with focuses on education, health and women's empowerment.
     Consumers today gravitate toward these types of business models - brands that they believe in. Purchasing a product that comes with a story creates a good feeling and higher confidence in the brand. These sustainable business models are about finding a way for consumers to connect to a brand's efforts in a way that's beyond a price tag or bottom line.
     Say you've been crafting the world's most beloved linens for over a decade. Think about the greater good and consider how you could maximize or reinvent your brand to resonate with today's consumer. Are the sheets made with eco-friendly materials? Perhaps proceeds from a bulk order could benefit a charitable cause.
     Consumers often care as much about "who" they are buying as what they're purchasing. Consumers are going to be more inclined to buy something if they recognize the social impact, and employees will be more motivated by a message built around improving the world rather than merely focusing on ROI. As companies deliver innovative, beautifully crafted products to the consumer, they must find ways to stand out. Why not focus on a differentiator that has a broader societal benefit?
     The design industry is uniquely poised for success with a social business model. Building an authentic story behind the product will add to its emotional appeal, strengthening the bond between shopper and remote village, consumer and artisan, or buyer and the environment.
     A social business model isn't right for every company, but for businesses that can find a way to connect their products to a particular place, group of people, or organization can find success in both sustaining the group in need that they are supporting, as well as the own business.

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