By Sergio Alcocer Founder, Rest of the World
We all love inspirational quotes. My favorite one, is hanging on the wall of my office. It’s by the great American poet and activist Emma Lazarus:
“Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door”
These are lines from her sonnet, The New Colossus, inscribed onto the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
We are living in one of the most polarized times in modern history. Sadly, the words of Emma Lazarus ring true now just as they did in 1883 when waves of European immigrants embarked on treacherous journeys to reach the shores of this country — our “golden door” — just to create a better life than the one they left behind.
But today there are fewer lamps to greet them.
Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans feel our public institutions — the very institutions tasked to keep our Democracy shining — have failed us.
An Opportunity for Brands
However, for brands, there is a silver lining: Public faith in brands is at an all-time high. According to a October 2018 poll by Georgetown University and NYU, Amazon and Google are the most trusted institutions in the U.S. behind the U.S. military, and Facebook is more trusted than Congress. To quote Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben, with great power trust comes great responsibility.
Brands now have an opportunity to serve the underserved more than the traditional institutions that fulfilled that role for decades. Minority populations that struggle in all sectors — financial services to wellness to education to healthcare — need messaging from an industry that genuinely can show it is invested in helping, not hindering, social injustices. Advertising agencies can now play greater roles in showing brands it is in their interest to serve as advocates for minority populations who are left behind, not just because rectifying injustices is the right thing to do, but also because those efforts are sustainable in grooming loyal behavior.
ROB as the New ROI
One of the challenges brands face every year is determining ROI, a measure of investment that is directly related to profits.
As Jim Stengel quotes in his book “Grow”, “The narrative of business has to change” and in order to create “sustainable growth”, corporations have to adopt a new business model through “amplifications of ideals”. This reframing of the corporate mission helps achieve two main goals: coherence through the entire enterprise, and the desired growth.
I call this new thinking ROB — Return On Belief, a measuring stick that ultimately represents a more sustainable alternative helping and driving long-term profitability.
Think about where disadvantaged minority consumers need help the most: in closing the many gaps that exist in financial literacy, higher education, and healthcare where disparities in wellness opportunities, contraception availability, and HIV/STD awareness disproportionally affect people of color who also suffer from greater rates of diabetes and high blood pressure.
ROB is a daring new marketing vision for brands to become involved in ways that go beyond just writing checks. The key is understanding how proper messaging, inspired by the brand’s ideals, can elevate awareness, motivate new behavior, and ultimately create more engaged and committed consumers. For example, data shows the majority of Latinos do not have proper access to insurance that covers important medication. The opportunity for pharmaceutical brands is to create wellness campaigns designed to help people overcome barriers to affordable insurance. These campaigns can concentrate on wellness advocacy or obesity prevention. This will lead to changes in behavior that will enable these consumers to finally become eligible for the insurance they need at the pharmacy counter.
In the financial services industry, brands can create campaigns to strengthen financial literacy among minorities. The outcome: Greater participation from communities that in years past have been mistrustful of banks or investment planners.
Education is power. ROB is a way for brands to harvest long-term loyalty through communications platforms that make minorities more engaged and feel more valued consumers.
As business people inspired by ideals, we should naturally want equity among all people. Because it is better to live in a world that opens that gold door for everybody, no matter their race or ethnicity, creed or sexual orientation. Brands that make it possible for everybody to pass under its eaves are the brands that understand why socially meaningful engagement is the best investment out there.
Embracing ROB is a brave choice for any brand that has spent decades only focused on ROI. There is bravery in putting kindness first in your strategy. Multicultural consumers will recognize that and respond positively. By making that important tweak in our go-to market strategy, and focusing on helping change outcomes, we can change the world — and enjoy healthy returns — one community at a time.