You really can be an entrepreneur and a philanthropist at the same time. Both actually work hand-in-hand with each other. Consumers have always been more attracted to people or businesses that focus on giving back as one of their top priorities. From the days of Carnegie in the past to the efforts of business giants like Walmart today, philanthropy matters.
The only problem is that there is a fine line between bragging about philanthropy and marketing it. Consumers are willing to switch brands if more good is being done, but they have to feel like they are part of the process. When socially responsible marketing is working, consumers feel like their purchase is helping someone. Here are some examples that have worked in the past or are still working well today.
1. Sometimes Local Is Better Than Global
Many philanthropic efforts are focused on helping the least of these amongst us and there is nothing wrong with that. The only problem is that there are people who need help locally just as badly as others around the world. Think about how many Carnegie libraries there are still operating today and it is easy to see how a local investment can continue to pay dividends year after year.
That’s why the best socially responsible marketing efforts will put at least some focus on the local community. Developing local resources does more than just help people who need it. Local development also helps to create future consumers who will be able to engage with the brand at a future point in time.
Think about it: if XYZ Corporation puts in $1 million locally to develop vocational skills for out of work people in the community, they benefit two ways: they can get more qualified prospects for open positions when they are available and people who benefit from the program will be more likely to purchase their products when they can afford to do so. That’s why local dollars are almost worth double when they are measured as economic impact.
2. It Doesn’t Have To Be a Monetarily Based Reward
Something as simple as improving the levels of pollution that are created by a business in a community can be used as socially responsible marketing. Anything that improves the safety, welfare, or usability of an environment can be a way for a business to market itself. There are some standard ways that companies will do this today.
- Through the inclusion of a safety checklist that will help to keep visitors and employers safe while on company property.
- The beginning of a new wellness initiative that includes partnerships with local fitness businesses and medical practitioners.
- Instituting sound or odor pollution control measures so people can stand to live close to the business without feeling overwhelmed.
Tangible rewards are always marketable. As long as someone benefits from the efforts that are being put forth by an organization, the efforts can be viewed as a means of being socially responsible.
3. The Inclusion of One For One Rewards
Many businesses are willing to pledge money towards a certain charitable cause for every item that customers purchase. Yoplait yogurt, for example, runs an annual campaign for customers to send in pink foil lids so that money can be donated to breast cancer research. When this is done correctly, it can create an amazing experience for everyone involved.
The only problem is that a poorly designed socially responsible marketing campaign like this can backfire dramatically.
It always boils down to the purpose of the donation. Is a company donating a static amount to a charity no matter how many units are sold? Do a specific amount of units need to be sold for a donation to even be eligible? Or does a business have a set amount they plan to donate and have a system in place to increase that donation if sales are higher than expected?
Whenever one for one rewards are used, customers want to see two things: that a business is willing to put itself out there to make a donation no matter what happens and that they don’t intend to profit from the experience. By planning to donate more when more units are sold, a business creates its own community network that will make people feel like they are supporting a good cause in a simple way. If, however, customers see a business trying to profit from a charitable campaign in an unapologetic fashion, a marketing campaign will quickly backfire.
4. It’s All About Reaching Out
Education and social activism can be remarkably effective when marketing to specific niche groups. Getting involved with local politics, providing educational opportunities to avoid harmful activities, or providing opportunities for people to better their own circumstances are all ways to reach out. Sometimes something as simple as sponsoring a local sports team for kids can be seen as a method of socially responsible marketing.
Volunteerism is also another method of reaching out. Paying employees their salary during weekdays where they volunteer at local organizations to serve others is a common method of practicing socially responsible marketing today.
The best marketing efforts in this area, however, are sometimes more about what a business chooses not to do. If a target consumer market is extremely sensitive to good health, then choosing not to do business with companies in the cigarette production industry can become a marketing point of emphasis. Making modifications to business assets that could obtain environmental LEED credits, but choosing not to take those credits, could be another example of this marketing in action.
The bottomline for socially responsible marketing is this: the purpose of the marketing effort can’t be focused on making money for a company. It must be targeted toward helping others first and profits are simply something that is secondary and nice if they happen. With this type of attitude, many prospects will be attracted to a product and want to do business. In doing so, everyone around the world wins in some way.