New research presented at the recent World Federation of Advertisers’ annual conference in Brussels uncovered a fascinating disconnect. A survey of global marketers found only 46% believe consumers share and approve their support for good causes. But when you ask consumers the same question, more than 60% say they favor brands with a sense of purpose.
According to AdAge: “Marketers were also out of step with consumers when it came to the idea that it’s acceptable for brands to support good causes and make money at the same time. Marketers expected only 56% of consumers to agree, but in fact 76% of respondents were comfortable with marketers’ commercial imperatives.”
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is better received than we realize. Couple these findings with a set of studies from Alexander Chernev and Sean Blair of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University which tackled the specific issue of how CSR influences the way products are perceived. It turns out when consumers think a company is socially responsible, they are more inclined to view the products from that company as better than others.
So the more good the company is perceived to do, the warmer people feel about the brand – and the better they feel about the product. CSR may be the ultimate “good” opportunity that advertisers are missing.
That said, advertisers must proceed with caution when touting good works. People like companies that do social good, but that warm feeling can be attenuated when they sense crass corporate self-interest behind those good works. A study with a pretend company named eco-Inks showed that its self-interested advertising about the product’s petroleum-free attribute was far less effective than putting that messaging in its CSR outreach – or having a nonprofit speak to the merits of the company. CSR works best when you position it correctly.
How do you do it right? Here are my three pieces of advice for advertisers contemplating a foray into social good, based on Network for Good’s work with cause marketers over the past several years.
If your company really cares about a cause and is authentic and meaningful in its support, you increase the positive effect on how your brand and products are perceived. Think of Patagonia’s Don’t Buy This Jacket ad campaign and its focus on long-term product sustainability and corporate social responsibility.
Show consumers the substance of what you are doing for the cause. Make clear which nonprofits you support, how and how much. Detail your impact so people know your effort is more than a one-off, self-serving stunt. Warner Brothers’ We Can Be Heroes matching grant campaign is clear and transparent about how it seeks to solve the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa – and it’s a two-year campaign, not a drop in the bucket.
Put the faces of the cause – not your brand – at the center of your campaigns. That shows you’re not being self-serving. More good will come to your brand from being about the greater good. State Farm’s Cause an Effect crowdsourced campaign puts the spotlight on community improvement—and the community itself.
The bottom line? The more you mean it, the better it works.
Courtesy of Ad Council.
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