by Chelsey Webber
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is about integrating societal concerns into a company’s identity, allowing it to act as a corporate citizen that stands for more than making a profit or reaching sales quotas. This mouthful of a phrase has steadily become one of the most important business practices today. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a successful company that hasn’t, in some way, delved into the world of CSR. Sustainability, hunger alleviation, and charitable donations are a few examples of CSR practices utilized by organizations worldwide.
Doing “good” in the world has become more than just a trend that consumers are interested in. Consumers often make their purchase decisions based on a company’s CSR efforts. It is for that very reason that CSR is an important part of public relations. Forbes recognizes PR as a fundamental tool involved in shaping a company’s identity. The implementation of CSR programs by PR professionals can set a company apart from its competitors.
TOMS Shoes is my favorite company that’s mission literally revolves around its CSR programs. Its “One For One” creed dictates that every single product purchased by consumers will help someone in need. This approach gives customers the guarantee that if they shop with TOMS, they will ultimately do good for someone else.
Locally, MADI Apparel of Kansas City takes a similar approach. For every pair of MADI underwear sold, the company donates a pair to a woman in need. Additionally, its products are made with organic, sustainable fabric – corporate social responsibility at its finest.
Apple is another company that just gets it when it comes to CSR. Its dedication to sustainable business practices is no joke. As a mass producer of electronic software, Apple takes every step necessary to ensure that its carbon footprint remains as small as possible.
When a company dedicates itself to doing good in the world, it bolsters the brand in a way that isn’t easily accomplished otherwise. Consumers are much more likely to get behind an organization that represents itself not only as a money-driven corporate entity, but as an active, caring member of the world community. Socially responsible companies offer the world more than just the latest greatest product of choice; they offer the world a helping hand and sometimes that’s the best gift they could give.
by Amanda Plachte
Pulling inspiration from philanthropic efforts such as TOM’S One for One movement, Target wants to try its hand at cause marketing this back-to-school season. The retailer will give one Up & Up brand school supply product to a student in need for each school supply of the same brand that is purchased between July 13 and Aug. 2.
In her Ad Age article, author Natalie Zmuda explains that Target spokesperson Jenna Reck says that the company hopes to donate $25 million worth of supplies to the Kids In Need Foundation and will be tracking progress and updating consumers throughout the campaign.
“It’s giving us more pulse points to connect with guests in a way that’s authentic,” Reck said. “It gives us something outside of just deals that we can talk about with our guests.”
Cause marketing is becoming quite popular.
According to Adweek’s Erik Oster, popular causes include environmental concerns, feminist issues and LGBT rights. He explains that pride month saw numerous campaigns from brands like Burger King, YouTube and Lucky Charms. Female empowerment campaigns included Dove’s award-winning “Real Beauty Sketches” campaign and Always’ recent viral success “Like A Girl.”
The Cause Marketing Forum compiled a list of influential campaigns:
- American Express Statue of Liberty Restoration
- Yoplait Save Lids to Save Lives
- Dove Campaign for Real Beauty
- 1,000 Playgrounds in 1,000 Days
- The Members Project
- Whirlpool and Habitat for Humanity
- Lee National Denim Day
- Product (RED)
- Live Strong Bracelet
What makes a campaign successful?
There are some crucial elements that need to be present in order for an organization’s efforts to really pay off. Writer Savannah Marie gives some tips in her Alley Watch article. They include:
- Authenticity – Consumers need to know that a company truly cares about the cause.
- Benefit – Tactics need to actually benefit the supported charity; usually with money. By endorsing the cause, a business tells customers that the cause is credible and is truly providing a service to the community.
- Values – The endorsing company and the cause should have like-values in order to be effective.
- Publicity – Earned and paid publicity can deliver the call-to-action to consumers about how they can support the cause.
by Jonathan Haile
In today’s world, we’re bombarded with so many media messages and advertisements that it has become difficult for brands to stand out. Think about it. When commercials come on, we change the channel. If a commercial comes on Hulu, we open a new tab in our browser.
Brands have to be able to stand out; to break through the clutter and reach the people that matter most. These are things that a brand can do to get my attention. While these are my opinions, I’m willing to bet others share these with me.
1. Your brand addresses a problem with a unique solution
Take Boston’s fast-growing men’s clothing company, Ministry of Supply, as an example. Men get up every morning, put on their nicest dress clothes, but by the time they arrive to work, they’re drenched in sweat and left uncomfortable for the rest of the day. The guys at Ministry are addressing this age-old problem by manufacturing shirts that absorb the heat that makes you sweat. The company’s signature Apollo Dress shirt is also wrinkle free.
You don’t see bigger clothing companies doing this and I really wonder why they haven’t caught on. Ministry of Supply is a little clothing company that, I imagine, other companies are going to start paying attention to.
2. Your brand is minimal
Minimalism can take many different meanings for many people, but in this case, I’m talking about the aesthetics. Apple is the perfect example. From the iPhone to the Mac Pro, the designs are simple. They look like something from the future and while more and more people buy these products, each one looks like it was crafted with a great deal of care.
The genius behind Apple’s minimal aesthetic is Jony Ive. You can see how after Apple shifted to this style, other brands followed suit. After all, Apple sued Samsung because their designs were similar.
3. You care about the customer
We’ve discussed, in previous, how Twitter is a growing customer service tool. In some cases, social media can get companies into customer service trouble, but in many cases, it’s nice to see brands interacting with the people that keep them afloat.
4. You have fun, and it shows
Workplaces are, first and foremost, places of business, but companies and brands don’t want employees to hate coming to work. Social media allows brands to show how much fun it can be to be included. We see goofy photos of employees, teams celebrating awards after months of hard, company picnics and celebrations of key customers.
5. Your focus goes beyond selling a product
Corporate social responsibility can have large influence on purchase decisions. Take TOMS, for example. You want to buy new shoes. You can buy from Brand X, who rakes in the cash and manufactures more shoes, or you can buy from TOMS, who will, in turn, donate shoes to needy children.
TOMS’ following continues to grow because it makes the statement that it’s going to make the world a better place when it sells a pair of shoes, or glasses or coffee. It isn’t the only example. Brands partner with Product (RED) to raise money for AIDS research and treatment. Seventh Generation, a natural household products, is committed to bringing sustainable options to consumers. Even Walmart is reducing its carbon footprint by continuing to install solar panels on more and more stores.
6. Your brand DOESN’T use social media
What…? Really…? Yep. Seems like a contradiction to what I said before, but brands that don’t use social media become more impressive to me each day. The lack of a social presence could be seen as being out of touch, but I think it’s bold. Apple only uses Youtube, but simply as a tool to share commercials rather than interact with customers. Trader Joe’s doesn’t use social media (or traditional advertising). It relies on a loyal customer base, a clever website, and a good reputation to keep moving forward.