What’s going on with Chipotle? This former McDonalds affiliate is the darling of the investment world, the fast food leader in the corporate world, and the munchies provider of college kids everywhere, myself formerly included (thank you, freshman fifteen!). With a stock price north of $500 and a public image worth even more, it seems like Chipotle can do no wrong.
Which got me thinking: is there a point when public perception hits economies of scale; a point when incremental increases in social good cause hugely positive swings in the public’s view of a company? To steal a theme from Malcolm Gladwell - a tipping point?
For those of us not familiar with economies of scale, let me take a step back. "Economies of scale” is a business concept where the per unit cost of producing a good/service decreases when the amount of units produced increases.
“…what?” I know, I know. Think of it this way: it might cost you $10 to buy one iPhone charger, but it may only cost you $90 to buy ten iPhone chargers in bulk. Same concept.
With economies of scale of public perception, it’s essentially the same idea, but in reverse. One Chipotle press release highlighting their grass-fed beef or their favorable work environment, for example, will have a much higher impact on their image than a company who doesn’t have any social goodwill built up. The enormous size of Chipotle’s positive public perception allows small bits of information to have large, echoing ramifications.
Therefore, we can define “economies of scale of public perception” as such: companies that have built a positive public perception on a large scale will be able to further increase that perception with little-to-no effort on their part. In essence, people will be looking for reasons to praise companies with large, positive public images. This intuitively makes a lot of sense, especially if we think of this concept through the lens of “perception is reality.” If people perceive a company to be good, it becomes reality: a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So how can we as entrepreneurs and business professionals capitalize on this concept? I doubt any of us run a company the size of Chipotle (and if so, give me a repost!).
Fortunately for us, the size of the company itself doesn’t affect economies of scale of public perception, but the amount of positive press releases, the number employees with high integrity, and the sum of word of mouth testimonials do. Don’t focus on being the big friendly Goliath - focus on being the incrementally good David.
By building on small positive exposure after small positive exposure, you’ll end up tipping public perception in your favor. After that tipping point is reached - or economies of scale of public perception achieved - it will start a snowball of social good and positive perception on the part of your company hard pressed to be stopped. You’ll be seen as a leader in your industry, a marketing strategy that trumps all marketing strategies.
To achieve this economies of scale, however, you will need to put in the work. Focus on social well-being as a core value of your company. Take part in community events, encourage time spent on community service, and parter with businesses who share your desire for public good.
Often times it’s the things you do when no one is looking that shape the public’s view, but don’t shy away from shouting the wins of your company from the rooftops. Leverage press releases, word of mouth marketing, and character-based hiring processes to slowly build the snowball of social good and positive public perception.
Take a leaf out of Chipotle’s book. They may be inspired to make the world a better place, but they definitely aren’t complaining about the increased business that comes along with that inspiration.
Ultimately, achieving economies of scale of public perception is a win-win: the financial returns to your company will be immeasurable, and the social returns to the public will be completely measurable: by the amount of people positively affected.
- Public perception has a snowball effect
- Focus on running your business with well-being as a core value
- Leverage press releases, word of mouth marketing, and character-based hiring processes to get the word out
- It is possible to reach a tipping point where incremental increases in social good cause large increases in positive public perception, not to mention large increases in business