On a day devoted to consumerism, let’s talk about corporate social responsibility
It’s #cybermonday2016. The term, coined by marketers in 2005, was meant to encourage people to take advantage of holiday sales online, as opposed to in-store shopping on Black Friday. In an ever increasing digital culture, the day’s popularity has consistently grown–in 2015, Cyber Monday online sales grew to a record $2.98 billion, compared with $2.65 billion in 2014.
Now that we have not just one, but two days devoted to holiday consumerism, the media chatter has become overwhelming. In an effort to cut through the noise, this post is going to be devoted to exploring a very different concept to consumerism: Corporate social responsibility (CSR). More specifically we are going to define it, give examples of it, and show why it is an often overlooked, “missing piece” within a multi-pronged, integrated marketing communications plan.
Corporate social responsibility is defined by Business News Daily as “business practices involving initiatives that benefit society. A business’s CSR can encompass a wide variety of tactics, from giving away a portion of a company’s proceeds to charity, to implementing “greener” business operations.”
Activities associated with CSR typically create top of the line PR opportunities, so incorporating it into a complete, integrated marketing communications plan makes sense. Unlike other PR tactics, CSR represents a unique opportunity for reciprocity between the business being represented and the community at large. A business’s efforts in this regard make the world a better place; promoting the business’s involvement in these efforts improves its image and deepens its relationship with its consumers.
Interestingly enough, there is some evidence that it even has a positive, direct impact on human resources initiatives. In his 2013 piece on the benefits of CSR, Forbes contributor Devin Thorpe states, “While each company I interviewed had varying responses for the benefits of CSR and cause marketing for the company, 51 of 59 believe that they have happier employees and 45 of the 59 believe they end up with better employees, either as a result of being able to attract better talent or that the CSR programs help to develop better employees.”
Some great examples of CSR being integrated into PR efforts to create a win-win situation for both the company and the community include both Ben and Jerry’s and Starbucks’ campaigns for fair trade and sustainability. The environment as well as indigenous groups benefit from their worldwide commitment to these principles; on the other end, their efforts have increased trust with the niche demographic of consumers who consume their products the most.
The choices surrounding what type of CSR a company should engage in should take into consideration the lifestyles of their largest consumers. We may generalize Ben and Jerry’s consumers to those who also frequent establishments like Whole Foods. On that basis, communicating to them that you are producing your product in an environmentally friendly way is an important way of connecting with them on an emotional level as well as connecting with them outside of the purchase cycle.
Similarly, Wendy’s has the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. As a food chain who has promoted it’s image as a family-oriented establishment and with a prominent owner who was adopted himself, this type of CSR once again makes perfect sense in terms of the consumer. According to Thomas’ foundation there are almost 100,000 children in foster care waiting to be placed in a loving home, so these efforts make an important difference in people’s lives while also inspiring the typical Wendy’s consumer to want to return again and again.
Hopefully, this quick summary of the highlights of CSR helped you to grasp the basics of how and why to start incorporating it into the integrated marketing communications plans you are creating for your clients. As the only true win-win tactic available it is truly the icing on the marketing strategy.
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