Some leaders hate failure and prefer to stay in their comfort zones, while others like to take risks and embrace the unknown. What kind of leader are you?

This interview is based on research by Gerard Costa

Esade Marketing Professor Gerard Costa reveals what makes some managers become game-changers. His research looked at Marketing managers and what drives them to be more or less socially responsible.

Do Better: What makes a game-changer?

Gerard Costa: A game-changer is like a chrysalis, a person who can transform organisations from within. They are driven by a desire to be socially responsible and do things differently. Yet they fear that the companies they work in may see them as hippies who are more driven by their values than by effectiveness and business results. Some managers we interviewed were even afraid of being fired or looking silly.

A game-changer is like a chrysalis, a person who can transform organisations from within

Why?

For older generations of managers, taking risks and embracing these types of strategies is often harder because they think about whether their actions will be valued from a business perspective or not. For a 28-year old manager, this is no longer an option. For millennials and the Generation Z, adopting unsustainable practices is out of the question and they may even abstain from working in a sector that does not support CSR.

We conducted several in-depth interviews with our MSc students and one of the questions was which sectors they would never work in: banking, pharma, the tobacco industry, defence, telephone marketing, door-to-door sales... the list was never ending!

For millennials and the Generation Z, adopting unsustainable practices is out of the question

That narrows down the job market options a lot...

When we told our students that they could choose between two options: either never work in pharma or do it and change the company from within, the answer was surprisingly positive. Instead of rejecting sectors such as pharma, which can have a positive impact on society, they found the idea of changing these sectors from within very appealing. Being a game-changer allows one to transform society from one's job position.

Being a game-changer allows one to transform society from one's job position

How can being socially responsible contribute to the business?

Social challenges can give brands a competitive advantage. Consumers are clearly interested in these social values. There are many examples of brands doing a great job at this. For instance, TOMS shoes' campaign 'One for One', Danone's sports schools, FC Barcelona's alliance with UNICEF... yet social campaigns can backfire if one's actions do not reflect one's values.

Can you give us an example?

One of the examples we use is ENDESA's famous TV campaign about children around the world expressing their desire to be parents someday. Greenpeace responded with a hard-hitting video that called on ENDESA to stop destroying Patagonia if it really cared about children's futures. One has to be consistent and lead by example from within, otherwise it will not work, especially in marketing where consumers are very demanding.

Why should companies invest in social marketing strategies?

Our findings show that these types of social initiatives surprise customers and add a social dimension to brands by promoting values that customers appreciate. Social marketing initiatives also increase customer loyalty and are beneficial for brands that need to differentiate themselves from their competitors. They also help boost brand transparency and honesty by showing socially responsible behaviour.

SERES Foundation states that companies should stop being seen as part of society's problems and instead be seen as part of the solution. Change is possible. It all starts with one question: Do you want to be a game-changer?

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