presented at the recent World Federation of Advertisers’ annual conference in
Brussels uncovered a fascinating disconnect. A survey of global marketers
found only 46% believe consumers share and approve their support for good
causes. But when you ask consumers the same question, more than 60% say
they favor brands with a sense of purpose.
According to AdAge: “Marketers were
also out of step with consumers when it came to the idea that it’s acceptable
for brands to support good causes and make money at the same time. Marketers
expected only 56% of consumers to agree, but in fact 76% of respondents were
comfortable with marketers’ commercial imperatives.”
social responsibility (CSR) is better received than we realize. Couple
these findings with a set of studies from Alexander Chernev
and Sean Blair of the Kellogg School of Management at
Northwestern University which tackled the specific issue of how CSR influences
the way products are perceived. It turns out when consumers think a company is
socially responsible, they are more inclined to view the products from that
company as better than others.
So the more good the
company is perceived to do, the warmer people feel about the brand – and the
better they feel about the product. CSR may be the ultimate “good”
opportunity that advertisers are missing.
advertisers must proceed with caution when touting good works. People like
companies that do social good, but that warm feeling can be attenuated when they
sense crass corporate self-interest behind those good works. A study with a
pretend company named eco-Inks showed that its self-interested advertising about
the product’s petroleum-free attribute was far less effective than putting that
messaging in its CSR outreach – or having a nonprofit speak to the merits of the
company. CSR works best when you position it
How do you do it
right? Here are my three pieces of advice for advertisers contemplating a
foray into social good, based on Network for Good’s work with cause marketers
over the past several years.
If your company really cares about a cause and is authentic and meaningful in its
support, you increase the positive effect on how your brand and products are
perceived. Think of Patagonia’s Don’t
Buy This Jacket ad campaign and its focus on long-term product
sustainability and corporate social responsibility.
Show consumers the substance of what you are doing for the cause. Make
clear which nonprofits you support, how and how much. Detail your impact
so people know your effort is more than a one-off, self-serving stunt. Warner Brothers’ We Can
Be Heroes matching grant campaign is clear and transparent about how
it seeks to solve the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa – and it’s a two-year
campaign, not a drop in the bucket.
Put the faces of the cause – not your brand – at the center of your
campaigns. That shows you’re not being self-serving. More good will
come to your brand from being about the greater good. State Farm’s Cause an Effect crowdsourced campaign puts
the spotlight on community improvement—and the community
line? The more you mean it, the better it works.