How do you determine if your marketing is working? I mean really working? New leads are one measure of a healthy marketing effort, just like profits are one measure of a healthy business. What about the other impacts of your business? Being mindful of your business's place in the world is about much more than creating cash, and consumers are taking note.
Boardrooms around the world have been discussing the “triple bottom line” (TBL) since John Elkington coined the phrase in 1994. In Elkington’s 1997 book "Cannibals With Forks: The Triple Bottom Line Of 21st Century Business," he explained at length the other "bottom lines" of companies and how they should all be accounted for equally when valuing the business.
Generally speaking, the triple bottom line measurement accounts for the economic value, the social responsibility of the company and how the company is accountable for the environmental impact of its existence. Elkington argues that by quantifying these three bottom lines, a company has the ability to consider the value of their social and environmental outcomes as well as profitability on equal levels.
Triple bottom line isn't just about whether the company "does good" in some charitable sense; it's about whether the company's existence is good for people and the planet. Do your target consumers think your business is a good thing, or just another profit center? How do you convey it through your marketing?
The Collaborative Company Town
Positioning business rules with the people, planet, and profit in mind has lead to some exciting (and unusual) partnerships, creating innovation that would have been unheard of fifty years ago. NPR’s City Project recently explored the Downtown Project in the economically depressed area of downtown Las Vegas. Tech billionaire Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos.com, and the City of Las Vegas, spearheaded this robust redevelopment collaboration.
Three years ago, Hsieh’s company was searching for a new headquarters to house their 1,600 employees. At that same time, The City of Las Vegas decided to leave their too-small complex, so Hsieh moved his operations to downtown Las Vegas.
Hsieh believed that his young, tech savvy employee base needed elements close to the office to live out Zappos’ company commitment to its people and planet. "Vegas traditionally isn't known as a walking town or city. It's a very car-based culture, and we wanted to help create a place where you had everything you need to live, work, play within walking distance," Hsieh told NPR. The Downtown Project boasts small businesses, start-ups, trendy restaurants, and even a dog park all in a sustainably developed environmentally friendly fashion.
Tony Hsieh in Las Vegas Image by Entrepreneur.com
It is important to note, Hsieh has taken some heat for mismanaging the project, but is resolute that he is not an expert in urban development and is learning as he goes. All that aside, this unusual partnership between a city known for over-indulgence and a tech giant is changing the culture of Las Vegas. Mayor Oscar B. Goodman said to the New York Times, “Zappos moving here is giant for us, just a total change in history. It legitimates us. Maybe legitimates is not the right word, but it validates what this community could provide.”
Buying a pair of shoes from Zappos isn't just about the shoes. It's about sustainable urban living, too. Who knew?
Start Ups Extending Their Culture
The incorporation of TBL principles can have a tremendous impact on the physical landscape and employees of a company, but when it fully integrates into the company ethos, the possibility for mindful marketing explodes. By integrating mindfulness into a company’s marketing tactics, they begin to think about how not only their product impacts the triple bottom line, but also how the presentation of that product does as well.
As reported by Fast Company, successful start-up, Warby Parker, hits home run after home run when integrating TBL to market their buy one/give one eyeglasses. Warby Parker's simple and stylish, $95 prescription eye ware instantly made hipsters swoon, and led GQ to proclaim them"The Netflix of eye ware." Their commitment to simplicity and product experience stays true from the shipping box to the solutions-focused customer experience team.
In their annual report, better know as the Warby Parker Year in Review, they graphically represented their 2014 outcomes in a less-than-appropriate-for-the-SEC sort of way. In addition to reporting new brick and mortar store openings, they quantified the $200,000,000 impact of distributing over 1,000,000 million pairs of glasses to people in need, and they touted “Bucket. List. Checked.” when Oprah Instagrammed her purchase of 26 pairs of their glasses from the NYC store.
All packaged in a cheeky and dynamic format (with the option for readers to create their own year in review), their report integrated people, product, and planet seamlessly in a social media friendly, sharable format. According to Co-Founder Dave Gilboa, the Year in Review drives record breaking numbers of people to their website.
Instagram by @Oprah (and receives 46.6K likes)
“Just bought a bushel of Cool prescription glasses @warbyparker”
Setting the Standard
Even the NFL took a more mindful approach when attempting to address the troubling domestic violence issues that The Associated Press named the Top Sports Story of 2014. In September, TMZ broke video of Ray Rice, running back for the Baltimore Ravens, punching his now wife in an elevator. Then, just a few days later, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings was charged with child abuse for striking his four year old son with a tree branch. The NFL's image, players, and staff were left reeling and in need of help.
At the helm of the NFL’s effort to clean up the people element of their TBL is Anna Isaacson, Vice President of Social Responsibility. Isaacson guided the NFL as they initiated mandatory trainings on preventing abuse for all players and staff as a first step. As reported by ESPN, this was a collaborative effort with former NFL players Keith Elias and Dwight Hollier to create trainings that were dubbed "Setting the Standard." Elias explained the program to ESPN by stating "For a player coming in, it won't look like something he has to learn but rather something empowering he can participate in... It's a way to open their hearts and minds to this education. To pique their interest."
Internal programs are important, but there is also the issue of the people touched by the NFL: the audience. Isaacson took a mindful marketing approach to clean up the public persona issues faced by the league. Although it was officially labeled as a public service announcement, heavy hitters Young & Rubicam were called on to create a campaign in collaboration with a coalition group that combats domestic violence and sexual assault called No More. “Speechless” videos from NFL heroes like Eli Manning, Chris Carter, and Curtis Martin ran during regular games last October through the Divisional Playoffs. The campaign is costing the NFL an estimated $10 million dollars in missing ad revenue.
According The New York Times, it is not clear if the videos will run during the Super Bowl, but they are making a big impact. According to No More, their website traffic has increased more than 300 percent since the first PSA aired and the public sentiment toward the NFL seems to have relaxed somewhat.
Sometimes, self-interest in improving public sentiment fits perfectly with what's actually the right thing to do.
Companies, individuals, and even cities are creating exciting and memorable ways to live up to their corporate commitments, engage their customer base, and even clean up their images through a mindful approach to marketing that considers their Triple Bottom Line. Evidence of this can be seen from the start up world to the most popular sports league in the United States.
The impact of taking a holistic approach that TBL requires can be wildly successful, as long as the message remains truly mindful, genuine, and believable by the audience. When a company can strike that balance, they have the chance to become much more than an item on the shelf. They become a thoughtful and important part of our lives. Great brands can be influencers, too.
How is your marketing mindful of people and planet, in addition to profits? Have you seen great examples of the Triple Bottom Line at work in companies you love? Please share in the comments, we'd love to hear more!