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Social Innovation Interview (3): Getting Consumers Excited About Your Social Innovation

10.11.2015

This week we are bringing you our third installment of social innovation interviews. In this video we answer the question:

How can you get customers to care about impact enough to change their behaviors? So many great companies are popping up that have first products that create an incredible impact, however most have found that people primarily care about price and quality before they care about the impact or the story. How can we convince people to pay attention and care about the supply chain and the individuals they never see or know who make the products we often take for granted? This goes for all industries, electronics, raw materials, agriculture & food, fashion, ect.

Transcript:

Kayla: Hi, I'm Kayla.

Christian: Hi, I'm Christian.

Kayla: Today, we're answering our second question about open innovation. Our question today is from Miss Laura B. The question is, "How can you get customers to care about impact enough to change their behaviors?"

So many great companies are popping up that have first products that create an incredible impact. However, most have found that people primarily care about price and quality before they care about the impact of the story.

How can we convince people to pay attention and care about the supply chain and the individuals they never see or know who make the products? This goes for all industries electronics, raw materials, agriculture, fashion, etc.

Christian: This is a great question. We did some research to look a bit around for great examples. We believe it's the best to talk about that issue, with great examples. Kayla, I think we found a great example around shoes, right?

Kayla: We did. We have a couple of examples around shoes. We may be talking a lot about our feet today. I first wanted to bring attention to TOMS Shoes which is a very popular shoe brand.

When TOMS started out, their slogan was "One for One," meaning for every pair of shoes you bought, they donated a pair of shoes to a child in Africa who could not afford shoes. Now their giving scheme has evolved a lot.

The shoes have just become trendy in their own right without the charity. They started by making their message very simple. People were more likely to buy from them, because they could see their message.

I think the problem is that, not to be mean to consumers, because I am a consumer as well, but consumers can be lazy. They want to buy a good product, and they're not necessarily going to research your back story.

If you can learn from TOMS and make your message loud and clear and have it shining bright, in front of every time that you are selling your product, then you have a better chance of people hearing your story.

I think consumers are good. They do want to purchase from good companies. The problem is that they also want convenience and a good product for the price.

I think the question is how do you balance all of those things together, and how do you make it easy for consumers to know about your story and to buy from you?

Christian: Yes, and exactly that's what I think, too. At the end, consumers just want to have a nice product. The question, it's good it was asked, because to which extent do they actually care about where was it used, what supply chain, who is involved? The other example I really like about is Sawa Shoes.

These are wonderful sneakers from Ethiopia as far as I understand. The links, by the way, we're going to provide later on, of course. Sawa Shoes you can provide these very cool fancy, fashionable shoes from Ethiopia. It's a great company.

They produce African fashion from Africa. It's very popular. I think they export to four different continents. I think it's a great example that with your product, you have a very social initiative with it. That's great.

What came mostly out of the whole question, and what popped in my mind right away is crowdfunding. I think crowdfunding is an amazing possibility and great chance to test the social innovation around your supply chain.

What I mean by this is you basically come up with a product idea and you can involve everybody from the start. You work from the producer to the consumer, together on a great product idea. We found, for instance, this great product called Coffee Bar.

You get nutritional grain bars and the idea is to produce these made out of coffee. Probably for students who want to be awake all night. It was kind of the fair trade concept, so it's understood that you had these coffee producers right away involved but also, of course the end consumers.

You had a whole debate, campaign discussing forward, backward. How they should look like, what should they involve, what kind of flavors, and all of this. It's a very transparent, open dialogue. I think that's where huge power resides.

Kayla: I think that's a good point on that. The best way to get consumers to care is to involve them. To make your product special to them and meaningful to them. Then they are more likely to know and care about your story and share your story and product with their friends and family.

Whereas, if you're just another product on the shelf, it's very easy to get beat out by a lower price, different product, or flashier marketing.

Christian: I think that most companies, the traditional ones as far as I understand, they do experiment a lot with open innovation, so they involve consumers a lot. Experimenting, for instance.

Classical example -- Lego, who asked their consumers to come up with new ideas of products and stuff like this, which is absolutely great. I think there's lots going on and lots going more. When you want to be involved with consumers that's great.

Few companies go as far, if at all, to really involve consumers and producers. The whole supply chain is left for us to question. That's what I like about this Coffee Bar example.

Kayla: It really includes everybody involved in creating the product.

Christian: You find another nice example also that it doesn't end at the consumer who buys and consumes the product. What comes next, trash. We found a nice project called Fusion and it's about social innovation projects around food places.

Thinking about what to do with the waste of food. How can there be great projects and ideas to avoid more food waste? That's probably at the top eight, when I investigated about the whole food topic.

To my surprise, there's a huge innovation community. Lots of projects going on around food and social innovation. The whole question to bringing farmers closer to consumers, markets, locally, physically, but also to the Internet.

We have found a wonderful blog post with about 70 projects who are trying to get these different actors together to innovate around to deliver and to offer food in a very different way, which is very great.

Kayla: I think it brings up the point of involving people in your organization past just the product. They might come across your product by chance or maybe you've involved them, but how can you involve them in different projects or keep them updated with what you're doing?

Once they have purchased the product, they can still be involved in the community. That's going to make them likely to have loyalty towards you and to buy from you again.

Christian: Exactly. There's also I found a nice example. It's a startup called Provenance, and they want to specialize in as far as I understood to help small companies to transparently show their supply chain. When you buy a product from them, you can see exactly where the product comes from, especially where the material comes from wherever it's produced.

You see the whole story behind it. When you hold this product in your hand that you bought, you know almost every little piece. You can investigate where it comes from, who produced it, and I think this is a very great way.

We're still at the beginning of all this transparency towards the supply chain. I think we have an amazing opportunity that we can engage in huge conversations from the producer or people who produce your stuff you're having to the end consumer.

Technology and innovation communities enable you to have these amazing conversations with everybody. I really believe that many companies in the future will go this way and have this conversation and be more transparent.

Kayla: Maybe if we kind of summarize what we've talked about and how can you get customers to care about impact enough to change their behaviors. One is making your impact loud and clear, right from the start whether it's on your product packaging or right on your website.

Make it clear how you're creating an impact that customers should care about. Think about crowdfunding involving customers right from the start through the whole process. Also, think about what you can do outside of your product to get your customers engaged in your community and what you're advocating for.

Christian: Be brave and try something new.

Kayla: Thanks very much for your question, Laura. We'll see you guys next time.

Christian: Thank you very much. Bye.

Relevant links:

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Tom's Shoes

Sawa Shoes

CoffeeBar

Fusions

Provenance

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