Let Your Light Shine: Our Definition of EMPOWERMENT
By: Tyrha M. Lindsey-Warren
Managing Director, L.A.I. Communications
Date: January 18, 2016
In 2005, as the Associate Director of Public Relations for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, I use to hear Artistic Director, Judith Jamison, yell to her dancers during rehearsals in the 5th floor studio in New York City, “Let your light shine, Children!” The first few months that I heard her quote the fabled Sunday School church song, I never really understood what she meant. One afternoon after leaving a media interview, I asked Judi what “let your light shine” means. She shared with me that in order to create the humanity in the dance for an audience, her dancers must always know who they are. They have to do this by embracing their life experiences and articulate in the dance the essence of who they are. Essentially, this is what we do every day at L.A.I. Communications. Whether for our clients or for ourselves, we harness our essence, which consists of- passionate creativity, soulful leadership, disruption and innovation, diversity, humanitarianism, a global lens, fun, positivity, gratitude, proactive organization, integrity, service, curiosity, transparency, joy, and excellence. This is the winning combination for our work and those we serve.
Honestly, EMPOWERMENT is a complex emotion and considered a multi-dimensional construct. The academic literature relating to consumer empowerment in marketing primarily focuses on choice (Gourville and Soman 2000; Langer and Rodin 1976; Wathieu et al. 2002), control (Langer 1983; Wathieu et al. 2002; Wertenbroch 1998), decision-making (Iyengar and Lepper 2000; Koriat, Lichtenstein, and Fischhoff 1980), and power (Conrad and Caldwell 2006; McGregor 2005). In a financial literacy context, McGregor (2005) suggests that empowerment is me-power and involves giving the receiver the perception that one has the inner power and strength to take action. Specifically, the author believes that when consumers are empowered, they are able to find their own self-worth and see value in their potential and personal abilities to ultimately control their destiny (McGregor 2005). This type of environment that supports empowering consumers is one that is safe, trusted, and where consumers feel comfortable in exploring their attitudes, values, and perceptions. It leads to consumers discovering their reflective state, which can be referred to as an “aha” moment (McGregor 2005). Wathieu et al. (2002) looked at consumer empowerment within the overall context of consumer control and choice. When firms empower consumers, they are ultimately giving them the dominant position in their decision making processes, which can be perceived as a benefit to the consumers and lead to satisfaction. The researchers suggest that progress cues, information about other consumers, and control over the choice consumption set can give consumers the subjective experience of empowerment. Essentially, the consumer’s ability to expand their control and shape their choice set is a significant determinant in experiencing empowerment.
In the psychology literature, empowerment has been studied in various disciplines including mental health (Corrigan et al. 1999; Rogers et al. 1997; Wowra and McCarter 1999), family and health services (Anderson et al. 2000; Singh et al. 1995), leadership (Bartram and Casimir 2007; Spreitzer, De Janasz, and Quinn 1999), and organizational behavior (Conger and Kanungo 1988; Matthews, Diaz, and Cole 2003; Spreitzer 1995). Researchers have identified a range of dimensions involved in empowerment including: meaning, self-determination, competence, powerlessness, and control of the future (Rogers et al. 1997; Spreitzer 1995). They have also defined this emotion as psychological empowerment, and have determined that it is a multidimensional construct that ultimately helps people take control of their lives (Page and Czuba 1999; Rogers et al. 1997). Early research in the area by Rappaport (1987) defined empowerment as the connection between a consumer’s personal capabilities and the will to take action in a public domain (Zimmerman and Rappaport 1988). While Segal, Silverman, and Temkin (1995) defined empowerment as the process where consumers take control of their lives and can gain the ability to influence organizational and societal structures. In all, the varying perspectives and definitions in the literature on empowerment shed light on how incredibly multifaceted and complex this emotion is.
Hence, for our work at L.A.I. Communications, we define empowerment as a multi-layered emotion that creates optimism, inner-power, confidence, and an inherent call to action that encourages positive and transformative behavior for consumers. It may also be powerful enough to encourage consumers to look beyond their selves and make a positive impact on their larger community. Empowerment has the ability to emotionally pull at the heartstrings of consumers. It has the power to touch the soul and enable a consumer to see unimaginable possibilities and positive outcomes.
Furthermore, in my experiences, EMPOWERMENT can be that unexpected and secret weapon that can deliver insurmountable dividends for consumers and companies. In a society that can be so overwhelming and daunting at times, an empowerment message or campaign can break through the clutter and is greatly welcomed by consumers. Research also shows that empowerment can improve repeat purchases by consumers. The values-based matrix led by well-known marketing scholar, Phillip Kotler, reinforces this trend towards marketing that empowers and can impact consumer values. Essentially, in today’s marketing landscape, values-driven marketing is the dominant focus. Within this context, the goal is to create a strong consumer interaction by providing a collaborative experience that delivers value propositions which are authentic and matter as well as are functional, emotional, and spiritual (Kotler et al. 2010).
In all, creatively communicating so we may touch lives is at the heart of our definition of EMPOWERMENT. When it is all said and done, all of us want to leave this earth better than we found it. “Creating EMPOWERING communications” enables us, in our small way, to achieve this objective!