Marketing Dilemma: Social vs Business

Marketing is the strategy for any organization to grow their business. If only you have read about “marketing” at core, you would understand. if you find your marketing definition equivalent to sales or advertising or branding solely, emmm…you got to do a lot more research, reading and learning. Because marketing, by right will make the sales, branding and profit fit nicely. It makes sales happen, it makes your brand shines and it makes your advertisisng budget reasonably justified. When you market something, there will be outcomes and part of them are sales and also branding. As we have experience previously, the greater the marketing the likelihood to produce greater sales and branding is higher.

With sales it is easier to quantify because they are numbers attached to it. When you manage sales team we are likely to have some who are performing well and some not. Even though the marketing (which usually come from the centre) is the same. it means the former sales person is doing well and the latter simply don’t get some of the sales processes right. but what about branding? there are a number of indicators to it such as brand equity, brand value, tonality scoring and so on. But brand is simply the way how people including your customers and other stakeholders perceive you in totality. in short it is a summary or take-home-point of what you are to them. the tricky part nowadays is, brand come in two dimension i.e. social and business.

These two dimensions explaining the very reason why corporate social responsibility (CSR), corporate responsibility (CR) and social responsibility (SR) come into being (these terms are similar and may lead to same meaning). the social dimension means how your company or product being perceived and felt by the community around it. it has something to do with more emotional than physical part of your company or business. after all as human being we have to feel something to move and take action. therefore having strong social dimension will make your company easily connected to people around it. for example, the last few years McDonald’s has been banking on “health” as their social cause. They changed the frying oil to soy-based oil, food information is displayed and food safety is main priority. Now McDonald’s has more positive image and of course business grows by leaps and bounds, for instance.

On the other hand, the business dimension has something to do with your physical and actual product performance. Business dimension usually seen when your product interacts with the customers. Having strong business dimension will give you better sales revenue because your product is known and ubiquitous. Customers will rate your product value, customer service and after sales, parts repairs and so on. But there is exception for these two dimensions. They work both ways i.e. good and bad.

When positive, these two dimensions will produce positive results and vice versa. Since customers today are becoming more conscious, smarter and have higher purchasing power we need to balanced of these two dimensions. Because the consequence can be dangerous. When you have overly high in social dimension, the customers may think you are an NGO or not-for-profit organization. the customers may even think that your product is not good or in some instances they think you actually dont sell anything. hence it is very difficult for you to sell something because you might be accused of using “social issues to make money”. I bet no business like this perception.

For example, nowadays there are a lot “greenwashing” where everything has to be green, eco and save-the-world sloganeering to make money. But in actual product, there are very few businesses that truly eco-product.  In Malaysia, there is this company call TLC (Truly Loving Company) who sells personal hygiene products. They aired a number of advertisements on the radio and i like the idea of the company and products. But when i go to the shelves, i realize their product is quite expensive. Does this sound familiar to you? Whereby good-nice feel-love product is more expensive than others. But, i do hope they can price it more competitively so allowing more people to buy and do charity at the same time.

On the other hand, when your business dimension is overly strong your customers will only buy on price. Because without social dimension, your product will not have differentiation and price become the key arbitrary. as we all know, buying is emotional impulse. when it hits the heart where the person believes in it, he will buy. however, there are instances whereby business dimension will enhance and give higher perceived value that contribute back to higher social dimension. For example if your product is performing well, it will increase trust. If your customer service gives good service, it gives better word-of-mouth and if your service  centre is everywhere and provides convenient, you’ll become the preferred choice. And trust is key in any business dealing but how to balanced these two dimensions?

There is no clear, silver bullet and touch-and-go answers to this. But surely the company must be able to do both at their own pace. Doing social cause too much cost more and doing only business cost less in short run but as competition becoming more intense, we will lose out. However from my observation, the company that usually fall in this trap is SMEs and entrepreneur-based organization. They got to watch out more and start to measure up to both the community and customers of their company. it is wasteful after a number of years of entrepreneurial venture and suddenly falling into the known made unknown.

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