A New Zeitgeist: The Emergence of Branded Social Leadership

Have you noticed the speed at which recent global events are starting to find manifestations in business? The examples are numerous but two stood out for me this week.

Firstly, Airbnb’s #weaccept initiative, campaigning the idea that “no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, you deserve to belong”. In an uncertain economy, caring and sharing are suddenly a very strong currency.

Elsewhere, in fashion and retail, Barneys New York is taking a powerful stance on female equality and empowerment at a time when women’s issues are a point of social and political contention.

The Guardian (newspaper) picked up the topic “Sex doesn’t sell any more, activism does. And don’t the big brands know it.” Read HERE. Naturally there is some cynicism raised about the authenticity of the approach – rightly though.

In the past, global companies held back from campaigning for ‘high profile’ and Zeitgeist issues. They didn’t want to ‘rock the boat’ and step outside their curated brand perception. Why/what has changed in the world we live in?

A new competitor landscape is emerging that unites business and emotions – born out of a global shift in consciousness. Consumers are becoming more aware of their inner values, leading them to connect to brands with the same ideals and aspirations. As a result, we are witnessing excess consumerism softly evolving towards more profound and meaningful ‘consumption’ based on deeper values and emotions.

A new form of branded social leadership is emerging.

And to be successful, it has to follow some simple yet profound principles to avoid cynicism.

Firstly, you need to establish your #Soul Essence … the truth of who you are:

Your brand must genuinely and confidently stand for something profound. Consumers are seeking brands that are an extension of who they are and how they feel. The biggest mistake you can make is treating this as a marketing initiative. Inauthenticity will easily be spotted and result in an unwelcome (social media) backlash.

Shift your BEING: Speak out on social issues and take a stand. Yes, you may think it is a risky strategy but confidence in your values and beliefs as an individual – in alignment with your organisation’s values – is paramount in this new Zeitgeist. To take a stand a brand must 1) truly understand its deep causes and values and 2) operate a culture in which each individual is not only encouraged but expected to live by these values.

Purpose: Ask the hard questions!  What do you stand for? What causes do you champion? What is the reason for your existence? What does your brand give to the world? What beliefs do your employees uphold? Answer these questions genuinely and let them inform your mission statement. These ‘words’ encapsulate your core values, and ultimately underpin and strengthen who you are as a brand: guiding your employees, decisions and actions.

Business opportunities are no longer a linear affair. They are found in emerging social issues that are rooted in deeper meaning. If your ‘Soul Essence’ is not heard or can’t find an expression, business opportunities will be limited.

In the ‘branded social leadership’ environment authenticity is key

Ditch your traditional marketing pitch. Hiding behind a brand (or a job) is outdated. Campaigning for a positive social issue creates a community of like-minded people. The energy harnessed through shared vision and values far exceeds any ordinary marketing strategy. Count the level of engagement of your followers in your community and not solely your clients’ spent.

Secondly, you need to develop your #Soul Connection … the art of emotionally engaging with your customers:

What is your currency of connection? Emotional Value Drivers (EVDs) are rapidly replacing the old and outdated USPs (Unique Selling Points) approach. EVDs are an expression of the depth of emotional engagement. They are your key to connecting with your customers and stakeholders on a profound, sincere and authentic level.

It’s the moment of TRUTH. The quality and depth of the connection is a direct response to, and an expression of, your Soul Essence. Brands and employees no longer see the customer through a lens of transaction. The EVD philosophy goes far beyond traditional service excellence and delivers something extraordinary, profound and transformational.

There was a time when leaders and employees were successful by ‘simply’ following so-called norms and rules and ‘doing it’ just a bit better or slightly different than the competition.

Don’t close your eyes to what is happening. Everything and anything is shifting and changing. Are you?

Keen to develop your brand’s Soul Essence and Soul Connection but unsure where to start? Contact us to discuss a personalised way forward for you and your brand.

About the Author:

Claudia Roth is a unique voice in her field. Over her many years of global leadership experience in luxury hospitality and travel, Claudia has discovered what true luxury is (and what it is not). Described as “a pioneer in luxury and consciousness”, Claudia created Soul Luxury to help decision makers reach beyond their own boundaries and limitations to create a new paradigm of business success. The Ikigai-Guide by Soul Luxury facilitates contemporary business transformation underpinned by 8 pillars leveraging your emotional currency as a business strategy.

Consumers want to be moved, engaged, inspired and fulfilled – and businesses need to shift their strategies to follow suit. Soul Luxury is the committed leader in the Transformation Economy, helping businesses to understand, grow and excel in line with globally evolving consumer awareness.

Photo By Ali Falak Photography

About the Author:

Claudia Roth was living a high-life career in luxury hospitality, traversing the globe from one luxury hotel to another, rubbing shoulders with business icons, celebrities and fashion designers, enjoying the material rewards of a successful corporate career.

She started to realize that we are steps away from a major evolutionary shift; though it took some time to understand what this meant! With this contemplation in mind, she set off to find answers while enjoying a profound journey of Soul & Luxury. She is the founder and Managing Director of Soul Luxury, a company supporting global luxury lifestyle brands to be leaders in the Transformation Economy. www.soul-luxury.com