Changing your business mindset from operational to aspirational, by Al Ghurair Investment’s Sara O’Hara

By Sara O’Hara, Senior Manager, Group Communication and Press Office, Al Ghurair Investment.

There’s no denying that brands form an integral part of our everyday interactions with the world around us. From the bed we wake up in, to the toothpaste we use each morning, to the car we drive to work in – brands, and our brand selections, are intrinsic components of our everyday lives.

Although this ubiquity has heavily influenced how companies communicate to their customers over the years, the consumer landscape is ever-evolving and notoriously capricious.

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Understanding consumer behaviour, preference and expectations have long been a complex feat, so adding a global pandemic into the mix has certainly changed the playing field. As social and cultural norms have altered, marketers have had to pivot – continuously and reinvent how they communicate with customers.

Many of these changes, including accelerated digital migration and shifts in brand loyalty, are expected to last even after the world recovers from the devastating blow of the pandemic, and brands are standing at an interesting turn of history for consumerism: balancing value and purpose.

Aspirational communications

According to a McKinsey report in 2020, only 7% of today’s Fortune 500 CEOs still believe their companies should prioritise “making profits and not be distracted by social goals.” Although bottom-line results are important for business continuity, long-term relevance entails a much broader perspective – one that broadly captures both economic and social objectives.

Organisations, especially those who operate with a more obvious community impact, should adopt a more aspirational mindset in engaging their stakeholders. Knowing your customer is one thing but demonstrating a higher level of empathy and compassion will make a difference in fostering brand loyalty. Loyalty marketers have an obvious advantage here, as they already have secured data-driven insights and forged close customer relationships, but even the strongest loyalty strategies are not immune to a turn of the tide.

In the West, we see a growing trend toward consumer boycotts of organisations that contradict their own values. This consumer dynamic is slowly reaching the shores of the Gulf, as the call for ESG principles in the region becomes louder. Younger customers in particular display a strong social conscience in the marketplace, with 9 out of 10 Generation Z consumers agreeing that companies have a responsibility to address environmental and social issues.

Also linked to ESG is trust. Once limited to marketing communities, consumers themselves are now increasingly more astute to the concept of persuasive design techniques, algorithms and how their data is being used. A critical impact of this reckoning is a growing demand for craving for trust and transparency from brands.

Certainly, it’s time for pause and reflection. Companies must review their corporate identity through a modern-day lens and ask: what do we really stand for as a brand? This simple question could lead to crucial changes in the way products are designed, campaigns are curated, and the overall governance of a company.

The power of purpose-led organisations

Much of the discussion around brands being purpose-led comes from an undeniable shift in consumer sentiment. People better respond to organisations that are led by “big picture” goals. As one of the oldest family businesses in the UAE, with varying stakes in regional development and societal advancement, Al Ghurair has embodied the mission of “enhancing life”, since its founding days.

As companies across the globe begin making the shift towards purpose, the challenge for marketers is to ensure this statement is not just a public-facing tagline that smacks of bandwagon jumping. Rather, purpose must be a core guiding principle within the organisation, with company leaders inspiring the entire workforce to be a force for good, and employees embodying what it truly means.

The risk of inauthenticity usually means having to deal with some uncomfortable truths, especially in challenging economic and political upheavals. Companies driven by purpose are better equipped to tackle internal and external uncertainties – what sets them apart from others? Broadly speaking, the answer is simple: they know who they are, and why they do what they do.

This mindset easily filters down to the communities these companies serve, especially for a brand like Al Ghurair, which has deep, embedded roots across the region. It also leads to stronger and more meaningful relationship building with customers, who themselves, seek out purpose and value in their lives.

The family business advantage

The space for purpose and aspirational communications is bigger within family businesses, whose priorities tend to include legacy, long-term vision, and community engagement. In this region, where family businesses contribute greatly to local economies, these values will be crucial to defining the next chapter of post-pandemic growth – ensuring to hit both commercial targets and social goals.

It truly is an exciting time for brands to maximise their impact on society, genuinely enrich the lives of their customers, and ultimately inspire a consumer ecosystem that lives and breathes purpose.