Successful corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaigns not only help a litany of philanthropic and humanitarian causes, but are equally successful means of improving a company’s image.
You don’t have to look far to find examples of companies engaging in this model successfully. Take philanthropic sponsorships like Avon’s Breast Cancer Awareness Crusade or Tom’s Shoes, the Calif.-based company that employs a “one-to-one model” in which a pair of shoes is given to a child in need for every pair sold.
Purpose is purchase “trigger”
Global PR firm Edelman undertakes an annual “Goodpurpose” study, which explores consumer attitude around social purpose. According to its 2012 Goodpurpose study, when quality and price are equal, the most important factor influencing brand choice is purpose. In fact, the prominence of purpose as a purchase trigger has risen 26% since 2008.
There had also been a perception that profit and purpose don’t mix. According to Larry Koffler, Executive Vice President of Business + Social Purpose at Edelman, these attitudes are changing. Seventy six percent of global consumers believe it’s acceptable for brands to support good causes and make money at the same time, up 33% from 2008, according to Koffler.
“Corporate social responsibility or purpose campaigns do improve the image of a company,” said Koffler.
A recent Gallup poll supports this data. The survey reports that socially engaged organizations have 3.9 times higher earnings-per-share growth than same-industry organizations with lower engagement scores. Clearly it’s those companies that are truly committed to leaving a legacy in their communities that are the most successful.
Corporate social responsibility is becoming increasingly important to success. Part of this is due to the fact that there now exists a greater expectation that businesses and brands look at the bigger picture. Koffler said 87% of consumers believe business should place at least equal emphasis on social interests as business interests. One example he shared is the Dove brand, an Edelman client that has broken through the sea of sameness and continues to be relevant to key stakeholders. In 2004, Dove sparked a global conversation with an integrated campaign, grounded in research, centered on debunking beauty stereotypes.
The “Campaign for Real Beauty” has evolved from “a campaign to a conversation” with the brand focus on inspiring all women and girls to reach their full potential. The brand recently created the “Dove Movement for Self Esteem” and developed confidence building educational programs and activities that encourage, inspire, and motivate girls around the world.
Through the effective evolution of the campaign, Dove has continued to drive strong brand affinity and has reached more than 8 million girls with self-esteem building programs, setting a goal of reaching 15 million by 2015.
Social media fuels causes
Many companies that are doing good have legions of supporters. Of course, authenticity is central to building such a rabid fan base. Paul Klein, Founder of Impakt Corp., a Toronto-based advisory services firm that helps corporations increase business value through positive social change, says that a month-long campaign may not have the meaning an ongoing commitment to a cause will have. Klein mentioned the ubiquitous pink ribbon and the many companies that have jumped on the bandwagon although their products are not appropriate to be aligned with breast cancer initiatives.
This is easily demonstrated daily across Facebook pages from around the world. Nina Zapala, Director of Public Relations at Orlando-based Anson-Stoner, agrees with Klein and believes that authenticity can also be illustrated using social media channels.
“Social media now gives companies a platform for conversation, education and real-world calls to action. There is no better way to engage new supporters, discuss the issues of the day, and keep consumers abreast of late breaking and ongoing news,” said Zapala. “Advertisements support one-way messaging and are one dimensional, while social media supports three-dimensional, two-way engagements,” said Zapala.