It is a generally accepted premise that corporate reputation provides a halo effect across all of your stakeholders – influencing decisions about where people invest their money and apply for a job and providing opportunities for premium pricing for products. And few would argue that having a positive reputation beats the alternative, by any measure. But a growing trend seems to suggest that the relationship between product sales and reputation may be even closer than you think, and it is a two-way street. Great products build reputations, and great reputations sell products.
Welcome to the Age of the Corpsumer. Consider the following:
- The annual Harris Reputation Ranking Poll indicates that more than half of general consumers (and almost 3 out of 4 of Opinion Elites) do research about the company before making product purchasing decisions.
- In that same poll, 9 of the 10 companies in the top 10 were companies with category leading consumer products, including Johnson & Johnson – a pharmaceutical company well known for its strategy of building its brand and reputation on its consumer products business as “the baby company” rather than its pharmaceutical and medical device offerings. (Notably, Berkshire Hathaway is the exception – a firm led by Warren Buffet who may be the ultimate example of corpsumerism).
- A recent study by the Reputation Institute revealed that Millennials buy into the company based on their perception of the enterprise, more than their perception of the products – almost two to one.
What is a corpsumer, anyway? And what are the implications for communicators?
A corpsumer is a consumer whose perceptions of a brand and purchase decisions are impacted by their perceptions of the company, as well as the product benefits themselves. They want to support companies that are good employers and good citizens, in addition to buying stylish or trendy products. And they vote with their wallets. In fact, some of our most successful companies today are examples of this very phenomenon…Apple, Starbucks, Nike. Do they really have the best products based on features like functionality, style and price? Or do corpsumers love these companies, and therefore choose their products over similar competitors’ offerings?
Corpsumers are more loyal and more inclined to advocate for the companies and products they love. Once you have them, you have them forever…unless you do something to mess it up. This audience is the “center of the bull’s eye” in terms of growth of the business and growth of the brand.
This development has significant implications for those of us in marketing and communications. Simply put, if you are launching or supporting a product in the marketplace based on the product features alone, you are leaving market share on the table. The reverse is also true – if you are working with a company to build its reputation, improve its perceptions on Wall Street or win the war for talent, and you aren’t leveraging your products for storytelling, you are missing the boat. There is no better example of this approach than Apple, a computer company that fundamentally changed its reputation and exponentially grew its business based on consumer love for its products, that became love for the company, using its CEO as the ultimate pitch man.
We are living in the age of the Corpsumer, and it is here to stay.