Purpose At Work: How J. McLaughlin Drives Growth By Supporting Local Communities

Businesses that give back to their communities reinforce their social license to operate with communities and consumers. They become a true member of the neighborhood instead of just a place for commercial transactions. Brands that cultivate this real world social equity earn consumer goodwill, loyalty and purchases.

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It can be difficult for big brands to establish themselves as authentic community members. A great example of a national brand that gives back to communities is J. McLaughlin. The American apparel company leverages both its retail space and its business to build stronger local communities.

Since it was founded in 1977, J. McLaughlin has partnered with dozens of nonprofits, foundations and philanthropic organizations. The company focuses its giving on several key impact areas including health and wellness, future generations, animal welfare and environmental conservation.

Instead of solely having one focus area for the entire brand, J. McLaughlin’s stores connect with local organizations. This makes their contributions more localized and relevant on the ground. In doing so, J. McLaughlin offers valuable lessons for brands looking to connect with local communities, scale their impact and strengthen their customer base.

Lessons from J. McLaughlin on how to leverage business to support local communities

Share Assets When You Aren’t Using Them:

It’s always a win-win situation when you can help your community without incurring extra costs for your business. A great way to do this is by assessing your owned or rented assets. If you aren’t using them around the clock, ask yourself, “How can my community benefit from the resources I have but am not using?”

J. McLaughlin sets a good example by how it maximizes the social benefit of its resources at hand. The brand hosts roughly 700 annual events for its impact partners at 140+ stores across the United States.

By offering its space to organizations creating social contributions J. McLaughlin not only gives back to its communities, it also gets more people into its stores.

Ultimately, opening your doors to impact partners is an excellent way to increase foot traffic and make a positive social offering.

Link consumption with contribution:

Consumers want to feel like they are part of the solution through the brands they buy. When you can connect people with causes they care about you establish an emotional connection with them. Meaningful connections build trust and strengthen customer relationships.

J. McLaughlin promotes contributory consumption via collaborations with organizations like the The Everglades Foundation. To support their conservation efforts, J. McLaughlin released a collection of clothing and accessories, 10 percent of which went to fund the Foundation. To take it further, the clothing company hosted several events in its Florida stores to raise awareness and funds for the Everglades.

By connecting product purchases with social good, you can position yourself as a purposeful partner connecting consumers with causes they care about via products they love.

Join cultural conversations:

By joining movements bigger than your brand or industry you connect with people through shared values. What’s more, you can attract customers that wouldn’t otherwise have known about or related to your brand.

In the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, J. McLaughlin dedicated 20 percent of proceeds from its New York City pop-up shop to the American Red Cross for disaster relief in Texas and Florida. By linking the brand with issues impacting society, J. McLaughlin was able to bring itself into the national discourse on hurricane relief.

The learning here is to pick a movement that resonates with your core beliefs. Your cause could be women’s rights, environmental stewardship, ocean conservation or poverty alleviation, to name a few. Regardless of what cultural movement you connect with, it’s important to position your brand as a force for good, fighting to better the state of humanity.

To connect your brand with local communities you must give back. Start by asking yourself the question of how you can best serve your neighbors? Then help your customers contribute to causes they care about. Finally, join other organizations and individuals working on those issues to expand your reach and to increase goodwill, loyalty and sales for your brand.

Written by

CEO We First Inc, author NYT's bestseller We First, strategic corporate consultant and trainer, father, Australian, optimist.

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