As I’m relatively new to the CSR sphere, I sporadically come across foreign terms and concepts. One of the more recent ones I’ve learned is ‘brand citizenship’—something that sounded strange on its face, as I didn’t understand how a brand can exhibit human characteristics.
After reading the latest CultureQ research from Onesixtyfourth, I was struck by the scope of how brands have and will continue to affect our everyday lives. Brand citizenship is the umbrella term that describes this process, and how (if leveraged correctly) it can drive a loyal consumer base and workforce.
The founder of Onesixtyfourth, Anne Bahr Thompson, explains the term:
“People are telling us that corporate responsibility begins with helping ‘me,’ the individual consumer, before it expands outward into CSR-like initiatives. For it to be meaningful, corporate citizenship should first integrate the values that are important to people in their daily lives. After that is done, a corporation should connect people to something bigger than themselves – their communities, their country, people across the world, and the planet. That’s what we call Brand Citizenship.”
As it turns out, U.S. consumers are more interested in companies that treat their employees well, are truthful in their claims around products and services, and provide reasonably priced goods than ones that rely solely on “big-budget CSR initiatives.”
What does this mean for your company? Should you halt your CSR programming, directing funds to HR enhancements instead? I’d argue no—think broader. As it is a new year, perhaps it’s time to take a renewed approach to your company’s CSR aims and begin layering these goals deeper into your company’s DNA.
How does that work? Instead of having one-off CSR initiatives or cause marketing campaigns, allow responsibility to permeate all parts of your company. From employee engagement programs to sustainable supply chains, make sure to consider CSR implications per each company area.
Here’s an example: When your employees are at the top of their game and outperforming their goals, say thank you. There’s a good amount of evidence that rewarding employees with charity drives loyalty. Fortunately you can also increase consumer devotion via the same method.
If brand citizenship teaches us anything, it’s that employees and customers want to be connected to your company’s CSR commitments, feel personally invited to a conversation with your brand, and co-create your brand’s identity.
So, how can you plug in your audience to your CSR portfolio and brand identity? Start with cause. Make doing good central to your brand promise. Take the lesson from Cisco or Clinique that company-sponsored choice in charity gives employees and customers an opportunity to connect with their favorite causes. The result? Your audience feels good about giving to a cause they care about and your brand citizenship gets a lift. Win-win.
Image credit: http://pinterest.com/pin/62839357272444486/