A piece of research came out recently that posited that people are letting their conscience guide their buying choices, with as many as four in 10 of us prepared to abandon brands due to poor corporate behaviours. Clearly, a brand is more than its logo and even its product these days. Now, it’s an entity with which consumers connect emotionally and find common ground. Put another way, consumers buy into brands that make a difference and give back to communities.
You’ve heard this before—after all, cause-related marketing isn’t a new tactic. Yet, it’s fair to say there is a disconnect between what marketers are trying to do and what they actually achieve. The same research showed that nearly half of us (45%) are sceptical of any brands claiming to support good causes.
So how do you properly utilise cause-related marketing and realise the power businesses have to do genuine good?
A good starting point is to understand which causes and partnerships fit your corporate DNA. For any activity to be seen as genuine, it has to sit well with your wider business personality and be true to it. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, and brands have to find the right partnership to drive true authenticity. This may not always be an obvious fit.
Kenco’s Coffee vs Gangs campaign is a case in point. The initiative aims to get young Hondurans off the streets and away from violence, instead training them to become Kenco coffee farmers. The win-win here is apparent. Kenco’s business benefits from well-trained growers, and its work with the local community leaves a positive and lasting legacy. It’s a fit that’s credible because people can see the benefits for both parties.
However, even Kenco, with all its considerable reach and influence, worked in partnership with competitive development organisation Fundes. And this is my next point. Get the experts in. For most organisations, CSR isn’t a core part of the day job, so businesses are likely to benefit from a facilitator.
However, CSR campaigns aren’t limited to what you can give in cold, hard cash in donations. Expertise and business knowledge are as valuable a currency in creating long-term and meaningful relationships and, arguably, show more commitment. So looking beyond the obvious solution of high-profile partnerships is my next point. Giving the time and expertise of your main assets—your people—to go beyond the odd day of fundraising and invest in regular knowledge-sharing sessions is as much CSR as a high-profile charity link-up or corporate eco initiative. It delivers just as much of a win-win scenario in terms of feel-good factor and internal engagement for both corporate entity and charity.
With social media, this sort of partnership can also transcend the confines of the campaign mentality and move into the brand’s social psyche in an organic and natural way.
What’s clear is that consumers want their brands to be socially responsible, not opportunistic.
Brands shouldn’t aspire to be saints—they’re here to sell a product after all. But, more often than not, it’s the little things that make a difference. CMOs build effective brands, charities help people, and, somewhere in between, there’s a gap for agencies to connect the two and execute their corporate social responsibilities in the most effective way possible. As brand such as Pepsi are learning, anything less than this just won’t cut it.