Big society and a big state? We will remember those who treat us well, and badly.

There is a new norm, and whilst it appears to a have happened in the blink of an eye, maybe it has been brewing for a while.  

Whilst Margaret Thatcher once declared that society was dead, 25 years later, David Cameron was looking for a big society. In 2020 we have a big society and a big state.   Covid-19 has, for the moment, pulled people together. For a short time we
almost have a universal wage, state intervention on a scale not seen in the UK and we are falling ourselves to help others; even the captain of England’s women’s cricket team is volunteering – delivering medicine to self-isolators.  Conversely
look at the ferocity of anger towards sportsdirect for trying to remain open.

Paul Sutton, an independent marketing digital marketing consultant, has written the linked article.  In it he discusses how attitudes towards brands have altered rapidly since coronavirus took
hold in the UK. Although he believes this change has been on the horizon for years, if not decades.

A quarter of a century ago, author John Elkington coined the phrase ‘triple bottom line’ to describe an approach to business that goes beyond the accumulation of wealth.

It refers to a business philosophy that encompasses social responsibility (people) and environmental impact (planet), and positions these as equally as important as the almighty dollar (profit). In recent years the ‘environment’ point has come to the fore, with companies judged by customers, investors and keyboard warriors alike on their carbon footprint, their impact on deforestation and
their use of natural resources. 

But with Covid-19 it is the social responsibility element that has come rapidly into sharp focus. In the space of just two weeks, companies have had to adjust to being judged on the way they treat people. And by people we’re not even talking about customers, we’re talking about society as a whole. Brands are having to demonstrate that they know
how we feel, that they’re as scared and vulnerable as the rest of us.

The world of commerce and business is changing for good in ways we don’t yet fully comprehend. But when this pandemic is eventually over,
it is the brands and companies who go out of their way to help who will come out of it on top. Those that treat their workforce poorly or who resort to meaningless virtue signalling will not last long in the new world.

We all know that life will be changed in ways we had not previously expected or indeed have yet to understand, but for sure we need to be alert to the changes we need to make to our businesses to retain and attract the best talent and engage with our
customers.  For the moment Gordon Gekko will be keeping his head down.

At a time when, without exaggeration, people will die if companies do the wrong thing, altruism and social capital are now currency.

By Charles Whelan on 29/03/2020