International companies such as Toms Shoes or Burt’s Bees have led by example and made social responsibility a vital part of their marketing strategy. Talking about it is key – and pays off. But beware: Social responsibility must be more than a marketing tool in order to promote real trust and brand loyalty. Here are the four most important questions you should ask yourself for successful social responsibility marketing beyond the hype.
Supporting a social cause instead of just striving for one’s own profit – and still score points with the target group. That sounds like a win-win-win situation for everyone, the company, its customers and the charities it supports. In addition to global players like Coca-Cola or Google, which employ entire departments looking after social responsibility, more and more campaigns are dedicating themselves to good causes, even in small and medium-sized companies. However, before starting your own Social Responsibility Marketing, you should ask yourself the following 4 questions:
Does our social responsibility come from our hearts?
It’s the first and fundamental question: Do you really want to use your budget and human resources to give back to society? Or is the good cause primarily good PR? Being sincere to yourself here is essential. Your customers have very fine antennae for the true agenda behind social responsibility campaigns. Mere communication without substance is seen through faster and faster and can have the opposite to the intended effect. In addition, social commitment to build your image usually reveals its positive effects in the long term and through continuous work. While short-term campaigns tend to have a positive impact, they also require a sizeable marketing budget.
What should social responsibility marketing achieve for us?
Once you are aware of your motivation for the campaign, it’s time to set goals. Do you want to boost the loyalty of your existing customers, generally position your company as socially responsible, or do you offer a service or product that matches an issue seen as socially relevant? As an example: “Bring back the bees”. An issue that attracts a great deal of international attention and also offers companies a variety of opportunities to become involved for the good of the environment. Like Burt’s Bees, manufacturer of organic cosmetics, who promised to plant 5,000 wildflower seeds for each lip balm purchased. The goal of a million seeds was quickly surpassed – at one stage (according to the company), one of Burt’s Bees lip balm went over the counter every second.
Which good cause fits with your company’s goals and values?
Burt’s Bees’ was a great social responsibility campaign, because benefitting the bees fits perfectly both with the product (natural cosmetics based on beeswax) as well as their sustainable corporate culture. The action was thereby credible and gladly supported by their already environmentally conscious target group. Doing good with beauty and a selfie? Oh yes! So before taking on a good cause with your company, always consider, if your commitment fits with your product and company values. As a rule of thumb – the closer the cause is to your own industry, the better. But as mentioned before: those who really burn for a cause are always credible and authentic.
How do we talk about our activities?
Any company that does good also wants to talk about it in social responsibility marketing. Here, too, strategic considerations should be considered first, such as the consistency of your message. Is it worthwhile to invest money in PR campaigns within social media or even classic media channels? Especially with smaller companies supporting local/regional charities, it is often advisable to first let deeds speak for themselves instead of praising yourself too loudly. Consistent attitude and dedication often kick of word of mouth. In general, social responsibility marketing needs a lot of time – but it’s definitely worth it from a long-term perspective.
MARMIND Top Tips: Social Responsibility Marketing
Stay authentic – Only a social commitment that comes from the heart and fits your company or product is credible and builds trust.
Think small – You don’t have to save the whole world at once – get involved within your means. In particular local or regional charitable associations appreciate support and long-term cooperation.
Think long term – Trust and loyalty aren’t established overnight. Social Responsibility Marketing needs consistency to survive the current hype.
This article is based on several essays in German business magazine Brand Eins, issue 1/2019