“Rather than simply interrupting [people's] escapism, we now have greater scope to make [their] lives better.”
Today’s suggestion – to incorporate an element of CSR into everything you do – continues this logic:
If brands are to become a meaningful part of people’s lives, they need to enrich those people’s lives too.
“Give, and you shall receive”
This applies equally well to brands as it does to people; indeed, many of the world’s great brands were born on the principle of cooperation.
For some reason, this ‘considerate’ approach to business went out of fashion for many years, reaching a low point in the corporate greed of the 1980s.
However, a renewed focus on ‘Corporate Social Responsibility‘ (CSR) became popular in the 90s, and brands today cannot justify a lack of broader conscientiousness.
But CSR isn’t just a ploy to enrich the company’s annual report.
Indeed, simply throwing money at a charity can often seem more like an acknowledgment of guilt than genuine concern.
For CSR to be effective, brands must demonstrate a real commitment to driving change and helping people.
This is most effective when the area of CSR focus relates to the brand’s core purpose and expertise, and integrates with the brand’s overall marketing.
For example, while I’d applaud a petroleum brand that donated 10% of its profits to feeding the poor, I’d admire and celebrate that brand much more if they invested the same amount of money in developing ecologically balanced sources of energy that ensured a brighter future for everyone, not just their shareholders.
However, it’s often difficult to justify that kind of longer-term CSR to shareholders, who invariably demand results today (and not 30 years down the line).
The good news is that CSR is a powerful and effective way to build a successful brand – a financial benefit that even myopic shareholders can relate to.
This is because CSR has the ability to create much deeper connection and engagement than broadcast advertising ever could; by helping communities and society at large, brands can demonstrate that they’re on the side of the people, and that helps to establish a more powerful bond.
So how can brands make best use of CSR opportunities?
Nike incorporates a significant ‘community’ element in each iteration of this event (and indeed in much of its broader marketing).
For starters, all participants are encouraged to raise money for charity through sponsorship.
Other initiatives, such as Nike’s ReUse-A-Shoe Program, take the concept of CSR even further:
Feeling good about a brand makes it much easier for people to justify choosing it over alternatives.
Furthermore, genuine CSR inspires people to talk about the brand, driving word of mouth and amplifying ROI.
Identify as many relevant opportunities as you can for your brand to give something back to its communities, and assign a meaningful portion of your brand’s resource – money and effort – to delivering these contributions.
Previous posts in the ‘planning for the future‘ series
Introduction: a new planning manifesto
Use communications to deliver value: moving from advertising to adding value
It’s all about the benefits: a simple example of how to deliver a brand’s core benefit with a TV ad