Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Make a Life By What We Give

Corporate responsibility and sustainability for marketing and PR professionals

Winston Churchill stated, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." Half a century later we see that this ethos has grown into an opportunity and obligation for global brands. Edelman's annual goodpurpose study found that 86 percent of global consumers believe that a business needs to place at least equal weigh on society's interests as on business' interests. The often invoked "fiduciary responsibility to maximize shareholder value" now includes a public mandate to invest in the community.

Supporting that point, the study found that 62 percent of consumers will switch brands if a different brand of similar quality supports a good cause. Brands that see this shift in consumers' priorities have a powerful opportunity to engage with their customers in a deep and mutually beneficial way. In today's socially networked world, people will buy a product with a cause and immediately share it with their friends on Facebook.

Consumers have never been more supportive of corporate efforts to promote brands with a cause. The study found that 66 percent would help promote a product with a cause, but 37 percent would also share negative experiences when brands violate their trust. These findings make the double-edged sword seems especially sharp and puts PR departments in a much more strategic position. Smart executive counselors can advise with confidence that customers reward companies that invest in good causes and will turn from brands that aren't returning value to their communities.

The good news is that consumers don't believe that companies should be doing it all on their own. Seventy-four percent believe brands and their consumers could do more to support good causes by working together. The study found that a majority want brands to help them make it easier to make a positive difference.

Just giving money isn't enough anymore. Consumers want companies to integrate the good causes into their everyday business. Nearly 67 percent of people have a better opinion of corporations that integrate good causes into their business.

The goodpurpose study found interesting differences in consumer priorities in the causes they want to support. Global consumers care most about the environment (86 percent) and improving the quality of healthcare (84 percent). Consumers in the U.S. put alleviating hunger and homelessness at the top of their list. Healthcare and environmental causes remain in the top 10, but less important than issues such as human rights and education.

After four years of caused-based marketing research, Edelman reports that there is no single killer-cause for companies to pursue. That probably means that best cause is likely the one that you and your employees feel passionately about and galvanizes your advocates to share their experiences with their friends. It turns out that we can still make a living and live a full life by giving back.

Disclosure: Edelman is my employer.


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