The Reign Of Profit-First Companies Is Over

Screen Shot 2019-09-24 at 1.49.39 PM.png

What are your initial feelings when you hear these names?

Mark Zuckerburg, Facebook
Travis Kalanick, Uber
Jeff Bezos, Amazon

You may look up to a lot of them, or you may have a bad taste in your mouth from the dossier of unethical moves from each of these founders.

Whether you personally agree or not about the business ethics of these guys, you cannot deny that a sizable number of their (past) customers cared about the decisions they’ve made and that it has affected their respective businesses negatively as a result.

After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, 44% of social media users now view Facebook negatively and 37% of users use Facebook less as a result. Uber’s half-billion marketing campaign to rebuild its reputation after the scandals that birthed the #DeleteUber movement has not paid off (the damage was too deep). Amazon has had several customer-led crusades to drop Amazon Prime in response to the company’s constant disenfranchisement of its employees.

Even though these companies started off with positive customer-facing intentions to democratize access to people, transportation, and product, where these company founders went wrong was that they didn’t follow through on the brand that their marketing departments had created for them.

If your company sells something that makes people feel good, happy and drastically improves their lives in a tangible way, it feels terribly confusing for the company to do anything unethical or unkind that makes people feel guilty for buying your product. 

When your company is two-faced, customers feel betrayed. When you show that you have the capability to be two-faced, it opens up a world of questions as to what else you can do to the customer to violate their trust in you.

It’s kind of like having your girl/boyfriend or partner cheat on you or betray you in some way — it’s hard to recover simply because you can’t rely on who you knew that person to be.

When you can’t rely on what you know about someone anymore, it’s almost like meeting a new person, but a new person you don’t like because they’ve already betrayed your trust.

If you’re creating a business with the sole purpose of getting rich, Facebook, Uber, and Amazon have shown that this doesn’t work anymore. When your actions constantly follow the money, you are bound to step on some bodies on your way to the top. 

No one wants to buy from a brand with a body count. 

What works is choosing people over profit. Choosing to pay your team fairly even when it cuts into your profits, asking for permission rather than stealing, and making the inconvenient calls because it’s what’s best for your people and customers (not your bank account).

If you want to sell a product that truly gives customers warm fuzzy feelings after interacting with it, then you have to always choose people over profit. You can’t flip flop between customer-first marketing and then overwork your workers to milk every million-dollar drop to benefit your investors.

You can’t be a lovable friend and a two-faced jerk at the same time. Your act will eventually get old and your reputation will fall. 

There are plenty of choices you can make like selling your customers’ data, treating your employees like crap, or choosing to not call your workforce employees because you want to make more money, but if you do choose that, don’t expect your customers to stick with you as soon as a new competitor takes over your reign (because they will, there always is).

Money comes and goes, but loyal customers stick around. 

Sophia Sunwoo