Kroger’s recently released “Blueprint for Businesses,” a guide to help companies navigate safely through and past the COVID-19 crisis, leads with six words:
“Now more than ever, purpose matters.”
Kroger then states its purpose is “to feed the human spirit.” What no doubt is a sincere mission of community support during challenging times also reminds that Kroger is in the business of selling products and services to feed people.
Messaging must be carefully and creatively balanced at a time when consumer-facing businesses are tiptoeing through marketing minefields trying to avoid charges of tone deafness while still needing to compete.
“It’s not about selling, it’s about helping,” an industry executive declared about what constitutes an effective, socially responsible promotional attitude during this crisis.
But one could counter that it’s still about selling. What needs to change is what you are selling and how you sell it.
It very well could be more crucial to promote genuine, meaningful purpose to consumers now to retain them as customers later when it’s time to sell them products.
It has been uplifting to see so many home and housewares companies step up to support relief efforts during this crisis. Such compassion and generosity is not surprising from an industry of vast influence that has always been united in a purpose to make daily life more pleasant.
That purpose matters is hardly a novel consumer ideal. It is much more influential universally, however, in light of such unforeseeable, ground-shattering circumstances.
Younger American shoppers, well before the coronavirus locked down lives and stores, taught marketers how much social responsibility factored into their shopping choices. Now, many others previously unswayed by such considerations are learning to place a higher value on businesses committed to higher societal values.
If it is insensitive and unsavory (and it is) for businesses to try to capitalize overtly on a profoundly painful crisis, that shouldn’t discourage industry and retail leaders from reaffirming and strengthening sincere connections with their customers. A window has opened, meanwhile, for smaller, fledgling or fragile businesses to shape authentic, attentive identities that could reinforce their prospects heading into a recovery.
Expect little forgiveness for hollow promises from some businesses that might crop up as a shaken marketplace resets its confidence level and consumption priorities.
Declaring more responsibility during this crisis means accepting more accountability. Distressed consumers, likely more aware of their vulnerabilities, will be vetting and following every commercial vow of goodwill closely.
People want to listen. They crave hopeful, sincere words that result in helpful, meaningful actions.
It took just six words for Kroger to initiate a convincing, benevolent and responsible blueprint for businesses.
Purpose matters. Now more than ever.
People will remember that when they’re ready to buy.