Should Companies Market their CSR?

by Kate_NFG on ‎10-31-2011 5:00 AM, EDT

A debate rages in the CSR community: should companies use their ‘good’ practices and programs in their marketing?


Peter Knight, Director at Context Group, says NO!  You can read his article “Letter from America: Let’s Call a Sale a Sale” in the October Ethical Corporation magazine.  In it, Knight brings Toms Shoes and others to task for conflating marketing and selling to consumers with straight philanthropic activities. 


Tara Greco, Senior Vice President at APCO Worldwide, couldn’t disagree more.  She contributed a rebuttal to Knight’s article on the APCO Worldwide blog SharedPurpose entitled “Marketing Your Company’s Commitment to Shared Value.”  She notes:


“Companies like Tom’s Shoes recognize that a quality product matters most, and then you have to differentiate yourself from your competitors. These days, all stakeholders—consumers, employees, regulators, investors—expect more from companies. They want to know what your company is doing beyond turning a profit and they want to know why you’re investing in those things.”


I would add the following in support of Greco’s argument: consumers are hungry for more, not less, information on corporate responsibility.  According to Cone, Inc., 90% of Americans want companies to tell them how they support causes.  I don’t think that means they want more press releases and CSR reports.  Consumers, as Greco points out, are less trusting of traditional marketing tactics and now look more holistically at how a company talks about itself.  A 360 degree view of a company’s cause efforts has to include a mix of corporate communications and marketing, but more importantly now, the voice of the consumer.  Through social media and viral channels, consumers keep the pulse of what they deem to be authentic and meaningful cause programs.  If they smell a rat, they are the first to tell you so on your company’s Facebook page, their blog and any other place they have a voice online. 


Just think about the backlash that resulted from the KFC and Komen “Buckets for the Cure” cause partnership.


It’s not a question of whether consumers are confused when cause is incorporated into marketing.  Rather, it’s a question of whether they believe that cause is authentically and sincerely represented in marketing claims.  As with all elements of CSR, honesty and transparency are the best policies.


CSR: The Business Case

by Kate_NFG on ‎10-28-2011 12:42 PM, EDT - last edited on ‎01-11-2013 5:00 PM, EST by Network for Good Specialist

Our friends at YourCause put together this engaging infographic on making the business case for CSR. YourCause is a provider of global employee engagement solutions.  You can learn more about YourCause’s CSRConnect platform and get additional CSRinsights here


Why Slacktivism Is Underrated

by Kate_NFG on ‎10-26-2011 9:36 AM, EDT

Online cause marketing takes many forms, but a popular campaign format includes asking consumers to take a small digital action that earns a reward from the corporate brand or combines with lots of other small actions to create social impact that is greater than the sum of its parts.  Consumers have been asked to vote for their favorite cause to receive a grant from Chase (Chase Community Giving) or Target (Bullseye Gives), update their Twitter status with a special hashtag (USA TODAY’s #AmericaWants campaign), and tell their Facebook friends where they ‘like’ to put their purse in support of breast cancer awareness (‘I Like It’ Facebook campaign).  The prevailing wisdom is that these small actions will attract consumers who don’t normally support causes – the so-called ‘slacktivists’ among us who only give back if it is easy.


New research from Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication and Ogilvy Worldwide turns that ‘wisdom’ on its head.


Earlier this week, Katya Andresen, Network for Good’s Chief Strategy Officer, posted a write-up of The Dynamics of Cause Engagement study on Mashable.  I invite you to read the full post, but have included some highlights from the research below.  What you learn will likely change the way you approach online cause marketing and how you engage with your conscious consumers.


In the 2010 national survey, people who frequently engaged in promotional social activity were:

  • As likely as non-social media promoters to donate
  • Twice as likely to volunteer their time
  • Twice as likely to take part in events like charity walks
  • More than twice as likely to buy products or services from companies that supported the cause
  • Three times as likely to solicit donations on behalf of their cause
  • More than four times as likely to encourage others to sign a petition or contact political representatives

Linking Brand Identity to Cause Programs

by Kate_NFG ‎10-24-2011 5:00 AM, EDT

Stacie Mann, Network for Good’s VP of Partnerships, recently attended the Mashable Social Good Summit and reports back with a compelling cause initiative courtesy of Skype.


Launched 6 months ago, Skype in the Classroom provides a rich example of a company (Skype) extending its core brand identity (connectivity) with a relevant cause (education) to create a meaningful and relevant initiative that resonates at a grassroots level, much like Skype’s origins.



From the website:

Skype in the classroom is a free global community that invites teachers to collaborate on classroom projects where they might use Skype, and share skills and inspiration around specific teaching needs.  Uses include: cultural exchange, language learning and general discovery.


To date, almost 18,000 teachers have established more than 1,000 projects across the globe.  From Australia to America to Africa, 60 languages are represented in more than 170 countries.  The top U.S. cities using Skype in the Classroom include: New York, Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angles, San Francisco, Austin, Washington, Dallas and Omaha.


Teacher Testimonial

Kara from Missouri, speaks about finding teachers to connect with on Skype in the classroom from Skype in the classroom on Vimeo.


The takaway for other companies thinking about social initiatives is to consider how you can leverage core assets in new ways to drive impact.  If you can relate your cause initiatives to your core business, those initiatives will resonate with your key audiences (customers, employees, community), be easier to ‘sell’ to stakeholders and decision makers and ultimately be more sustainable.

Here’s a little Friday fun for you: a talk by Kevin Bacon on his work with Network for Good on Six Degrees.   Kevin spoke last week at TEDx Midwest, sharing his story about ‘the power of one’ and how he turned a college drinking game (at his expense) into a force for social good through

As he says, anyone can be a ‘celebrity’ for their cause - with the right message, connections and devotion.  I bet there are many ‘celebrities’ among your employees and customers.  How can your company unleash their generosity and reinforce their passion for the community? 


View more videos at:

It's that time of year, again.  The holidays are fast approaching and, at Network for Good, that means that online giving is about to go into turbo drive.  It happens every year.  Generosity ramps up to a fever pitch, culminating in the biggest day of giving on December 31st.


We know that your customers and employees are also generous procrastinators at the end of the year: they want to join your holiday cause campaign, but need a little encouragement from you.  This new Holiday 'Good' Guide from Network for Good will show you how to unleash their generosity this holiday season.

As a leading online giving platform, Network for Good wants to share our data about how donors turn to the Internet for year-end giving and give you a few tips. We invite you to read our insights and recommendations based on donations through Network for Good's giving system in December for the last eight years (2003 through 2010).

Let us help you design the perfect holiday giving campaign.
Contact us to get started.

There are two  important factors that lead to cause marketing success:

  • The cause must be a good match for the company, brand and/or target audience
  • There must be support across the entire company for the cause

That is a finding from the 2011 Corporate Social Impact Marketing Survey, a joint study by Allison & Partners and the Cause Marketing Forum.  The survey includes insights from executives at 35 top national brands (including Best Western, ConAgra Foods, Walgreens, and the Walt Disney Company) into their corporate philanthropy, community relations or cause marketing programs. 


Scott Pansky, partner and co-founder of Allison & Partners, recently expanded on the findings from the survey in AdAge.  According to Pansky,


  • The cause must be a good match for the company, brand and target audience; therefore, more importance should be placed on employee and consumer feedback.
  • Internal alignment on the business case must be achieved before the campaign is launched -- this could happen by engaging senior leadership and employees earlier in the process through research.
  • Unsuccessful campaigns are hung up on low sales results while successful campaigns use additional metrics to determine their achievements. Companies must be innovative when developing success metrics.


In sum, cause marketing is at its best when the initiative fits within a larger CSR strategy (that encompasses consumers, employees and other stakeholders) and long-term cause partnership.


You can read the full  2011 Corporate Social Impact Marketing Survey here.


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About This Blog

Companies for Good shares insights on cause marketing and corporate social responsibility topics to inform your charitable engagement with consumers and employees. Network for Good empowers corporate partners to unleash generosity and advance good causes. The blog celebrates that work and provides expertise and resources to help you do well and do good. Learn more

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