Last Friday’s Social Media Week panel “Social Good for All” had a good mix of nonprofits (Good Magazine, Charity Water, Purpose), for-profits (Pepsi, IBM) and an uninhibited moderator (Cindy Gallop). The intelligent and vibrant panel spoke mostly about the marketing trend of using social good.
They began the panel with the stat: “90% of consumers want companies to tell them the ways they are supporting causes.” One of the panelists, Shiv Singh, Head of Digital at PepsiCo, feels that heightened corporate social responsibility is now so ingrained in corporate marketing tactics that “social good marketing” should simply be called “21st Century Marketing.” Those of us who have always worked in the “social good” space, well before the 21st century, call it social marketing, or simply, our work.
Interestingly enough, there were a lot of non-profits at the panel, and their backchannel tweets revealed their nervousness about the discussion. Could corporate marketing’s adoption of social good mean competition with non-governmental organizations (NGOs)?
@GordonJayFrost lead the charge, with many retweeting his sentiments:
I retweeted the latter. At first, it scared me and so, it spoke to me. As a New Yorker working in nonprofits for 9 years, I’m particularly sensitive to rumblings of any competition for my already compromised livelihood. But then it occurred to me – everyone is talking like we are two years away from solving all the world’s problems. Panelist Alnoor Ladha, from Purpose, reminded us that although wealth has doubled, happiness has not increased and that disparities in wealth continue to grow. In short, still a lot to do!
I spotted another trend in Social Media Week where nonprofits say their mission is to shut down. One panel was called “Nonprofits Using Social Media to Close Doors… For Good, Hosted by Scott Case of Malaria No More.” So here we have some nonprofits begging to be shut down, and other scared that corporations will do just that. Well, coming from a girl that works at a nonprofit that’s been around since 1942 I’m here to predict that none of this should,(or rather, will), happen.
I believe a nonprofit can be versatile and dynamic. When one mission is completed, spot your next challenge that may be able to use some of the structure and relationships you have already established. And when consumer market trends tell you that your expertise is in demand, step up and aggressively position your organization as the leader. This should be a very exciting time for nonprofits – our various missions can now dovetail with corporate profit!—and therefore a real opportunity for many public-private partnerships that we know work. It’s definitely not the time to listen to the latent insecure voice that oft invades the nonprofit community (for-profits are more efficient, they have more money, they have less politics, I can’t compete). Or is that just me?
Think of what non-profits have that for-profits cannot offer. For-profits live by the bottom line. We know now that their social marketing must be helping the bottom line or else we would not be seeing this trend. But it could be just that a trend. Shiv Singh said “I will never tell you how Pepsi Refresh affected sales, because I’m in a competitive business.” And, I surmise, because he’s not keen on consumers making that connection. But consumers will, and they do, and that, in sum, is why I’m not scared Don’t get me wrong, I’m truly excited about projects like Pepsi Refresh and am grateful for Pepsi. But corporations will strive to offset their carbon emissions or their contributions to obesity. This balance is a less bad strategy, which again, I think is great. But less bad will never be good.