The evidence for this is all around us, as social businesses grow market share in category after category, from TOMS Shoes to Warby Parker eye-wear, 7th Generation cleaning products to Tesla cars, Mighty Good Undies and Change.org.
The founders of these companies, and tens of thousands like them, big and small, are driven by a passion for a capitalism that works not only for owners like them but for workers, communities, future generations and the biosphere around us.
But as we know, passion alone doesn’t get you to your destination.
What I want to talk about today isn’t why these companies do what they do, but how they have succeeded in some of the most competitive market segments in the world.
These businesses have succeeded by mobilizing passionate communities around them, and by offering a product that is not only high quality, but which stands for something.
When products and companies stand for something, they activate a wider set of emotions, create deeper engagement and inspire greater sharing.
This has happened simultaneous with a huge shift in the way in which marketing happens.
Where once marketing was all about interruption – find the right audience, and interrupt them while they’re doing something else (watching TV, at the movies, in the shopping centre) – today effective marketing is the art of inspiring people to share your story for you.
Sharing is the Jiu Jitsu of marketing today - it's how you create a greater impact with fewer resources. And social businesses have an intrinsic, almost unfair, advantage in this new environment.
Social technologies have changed the playing field for social enterprises, enabling them to grow faster not through big marketing budgets and the interruption-based tactics of business-as-usual but through the passionate advocacy of their community.
Social media is the greatest tool for sharing that has ever existed, but that's not much good if your story isn't actually worth sharing.
Social enterprise-make products that are inherently more worth sharing than regular products, because doing so communicates more. In sharing the fact that you have purchased from a social enterprise, you are sharing your values and beliefs. You are also likely inspiring others to join you in supporting that enterprise, fueling their growth.
As Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes says, “people buy stories, not products.”
Blake discovered that his customers would sell his product for him, not because it was the most stylish or best value (although they do well on these dimensions also) but because it resonated with their values and gave them the opportunity to communicate those values.
Here’s how Blake describes getting the first boutique to stock TOMS in his book, Start Something That Matters: “I went in and told her [the buyer] the TOMS story. Every month this woman saw, and judged, more shoes that you could imagine. More shoes than American Rag [the shop] could ever possibly stock. But from the beginning, she realised that TOMS was more than just a shoe, it was a story. And the buyer loved the story as much as the shoe, and knew she could sell both of them.”
This idea is backed up by the data. In a survey conducted by market research company Core Communications, 71% of consumers agreed they “would be more likely to purchase from a company that supports a cause they care about.”
A recent survey from the consulting firm Deloitte shows that 72% of employed Americans say they would prefer to work for a company that supports charitable causes when choosing between two jobs that offer the same location, pay and other benefits. For millennial's, these numbers are even stronger.
In a 2013-survey, 93% of millennial workers said that they expected businesses to have a social commitment; a mere 7% agreed that the only job of business is to make a profit.
Consumer participation in spreading their message is the marketing Jiu Jitsu social enterprises are using to successfully launch and grow. Instead of using brute force to win a fight - or spread your marketing message; you leverage and focus the strengths of others to create your impact.
If you’re not extraordinary in some way, if you don’t have a story that engages and inspires, you will be ignored. As the marketing guru Seth Godin said in his book Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, “In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is failing. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.”
There is no marketplace more active and more crowded than the market for attention today.
The unique combination which social enterprises offer – a high-quality product that meets your personal needs, created in a way that makes the social impacts we all need – makes every social enterprise product so much more than meets the eye. It turns that product into a story and your individual act of consumption into an opportunity to express something fundamental about yourself and the future you want.
It turns the ordinary into the extraordinary, the mundane into the shareable.
A powerful purpose makes you remarkable.