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Marketing: Your actions are speaking


It’s Thanksgiving week, and for many Americans that means Black Friday is on their radar screen. Millions were ready to queue up right after cleaning up the Thanksgiving dishes to rush into the malls or big box stores Thursday night or at the crack of dawn on Friday.

But this year they’re going to have fewer options.

Interestingly, far fewer stores planned to stay open on Thanksgiving or offer sunrise hours for their most determined shoppers despite the hunger for sales this year after the pandemic wiped out in store sales for 2020.

Retailers aren’t offering up much explanation for the shift. It may simply be that they are struggling with staffing so the shorter hours are all they can manage. It may be tied to a sense of everyone wanting to savor the holidays this year in a way they couldn’t last year. Retailers may be worried about the blowback of asking their employees to work on a holiday. Whatever the reason, it does color the way consumers are looking at these companies. 

How each consumer views the move to the shortened, more traditional store hours on what has historically been retail’s craziest day will be colored by their own values and viewpoint. If being at the mall by 9 p.m. was part of your family’s Thanksgiving tradition, you might be pretty disappointed at the muted version of Black Friday. If you’re of the mind that Black Friday is rampant consumerism at its worst, then you’re probably applauding the change.

Just like in personal relationships, actions speak louder than words. This is true for all of us as business owners and leaders. The choices we make and how we move our companies forward speak volumes to our customers, employees and prospective customers. 

And, of course, those actions are not black and white. No matter what we do, it’s filtered through the lens of each consumer. That’s actually what makes branding work.  

We declare who and what we are all about in our values, mission and vision statements. But we prove that it’s more than lip service (or not) by our policies, decisions and actions. Once we make it clear where we stand, each consumer is either drawn closer to us or something about who we are makes them take a step back.  

Where we get into trouble is when our actions don’t align with who we say we are. Both before and after the pandemic, we saw study after study that clearly said our consumers believe we need to declare who we are and then prove it through our consistent actions. When we don’t deliver on that consistency, our words get dismissed and our actions become the de facto truth.

Sometimes that’s exactly how it should be. We all know of organizations who talk a good game but how they actually behave is not in alignment with how they talk about themselves. That red flag should not be ignored.

But more often than not, it’s not that the company is being duplicitous. It’s because the organization hasn’t done a good job of weaving those core values into decision-making at every level and that the rank-and-file employees either aren’t aware of the core values or haven’t been taught how to use them as guideposts for how they manage the company’s interactions with customers or employees on a day-to-day basis.

Mission, vision and values are often a lofty C-suite exercise that doesn’t trickle down in a meaningful way. How do you make sure your organization’s words match your actions?  

In next week’s column, we’ll unpack some very practical ways for you to make sure that how you talk about your company aligns with the actions that your employees and clients see every day.


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