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Living our values: Respectful [6/7]

Part six of a blogpost series on the InSites Consulting company values. 

Back in 1963, Martin Luther King gave his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech. King’s dreamed about creating equal chances for all: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” While this battle for equal rights is far from won, we have witnessed a new battle for equality, this one running between brands and consumers. While brands have been the almighty power for ages, we’ve gradually shifted in the direction of a power balance between brands and consumers. And that is a good thing.

Equal rights and duties

Brands and consumers increasingly share equal rights and duties. Brands have the power to craft a vision, and to transform that vision into real products and services, communication, customer service, etc. Consumers have the power to make or break brands through conversations and recommendations, co-creation and collaboration, and evidently buying and consuming. Not only did consumers acquire increasing power through social media, consumer rights organizations continued to gain power and have put additional pressure on brands to take consumers serious. And let’s not forget what companies such as Google have contributed, by offering free services to the rich and the poor around the globe and thereby driving global equality and accelerating human learning and commerce.

While many examples of the like exist, the future is bright, as companies are learning fast. Great companies increasingly realize that people and people alone show the world their true identity, whether they are employees or customers. They act as humans and allow people to act on their behalf. They say sorry when they mess up, have their top managers interact directly with customers, and empower their employees to make a true difference for customers. Tony Hsieh, former CEO at Zappos, knows all about the power of reciprocity, building his organization around bringing happiness instead of selling shoes: “We asked ourselves what we wanted this company to stand for. We didn’t just want to sell shoes. I wasn’t even into shoes – but I was passionate about customer service.” He knows like no-one else that we are into service to each other, and that a customer-centric view of business life is the key to success and happiness.

Authenticity

“I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.” Winston Churchill

I love that quote. Being respectful means neither looking up to nor down on others, but treating each other as equals. And this through acts, not words. This is all the more true in today’s transparent society, grouping ever more marketing-savvy citizens. If you make a promise, you’d better stick to it or even exceed it. Anything brands say can and will be used against them if it is not backed up by strong and real evidence. A well-known example of how things can go wrong is the stunt Norway’s former Prime Minister Stoltenberg pulled off once by acting as a taxi driver for one day, therefore demonstrating to better understand and connect with everyday citizens. While everything appeared to be real and authentic, several passengers were apparently paid to feature in the videos, which downgraded the whole experience.

So, what does ‘respectful’ mean to InSites Consulting?

Similar to the above, equality is the core. It even is the basis for our company vision. Every day, we try to bring brands and consumers closer to each other, narrowing the power gap that still exists between them. In most of our consumer insight communities, half the discussions are related to questions or challenges from brands, while the other half result from topics participants put on the agenda themselves. All of this leads to consumers having a real and more impactful say in the future of brands, which drives equality. We apply a similar equality principle when using consumers as co-researchers, considering them to be ‘equals’ and involving them in quality control, moderation, interpretation and method innovation. Equality also means that we strive to keep our company as flat as possible. We lower perceived hierarchical thresholds with a ‘company within the company’ philosophy, embracing co-creation initiatives, facilitating office migration, and giving young people the chance to step up. For newcomers, there is no way of telling who is managing partner and who isn’t, unless you go and explore our website.

Let me conclude with a final quote from Churchill (yes, I’m kind of a fan of his quotes 😉): “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” As a business we are always looking for ways to positively contribute to the wider market research community and to our local communities. We regularly speak and run seminars at business schools, and volunteer our time in research organization such as MRS and Women in Research. Our employee program ‘Give a Day’ encourages every employee and all teams to donate their time to a cause they feel passionate about.

Being respectful does not equal being soft; it equals being daring, just like Martin Luther King was: daring to let go of your power, daring to be real and authentic, daring to show your true identity. And that automatically brings me to our seventh value, to be unveiled in our next and final blogpost.

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