Building on the legacy of citizen, consumer and cyber-activism, this year will see shared activism take center stage in marketing. What this means is that companies will define the purpose of their brand and identify a cause that is meaningful to their customers and in alignment with the core values of their brand. The company will then seek to partner with their customer community based on shared values to fulfill a common purpose, whether it is access to clean water for millions of people, improving childhood education or women’s rights around the globe.
Dion Chang in conversation with BizRadio’s Grant Jansen
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Why it’s important?
Consumers around the world are very aware of the inertia caused by political gridlock and the scarce resources that limit the impact of important philanthropic, non-profit and NGO work. As a result, research by Edelman in the U.S. and Havas Media in Europe shows that global consumers want brands to be more socially responsible and believe that they can achieve greater social impact by working together with brands.
69% of US consumers said they are more likely to buy from a brand that talks publicly about its CSR results, versus the 31% who would purchase from a brand that talks about its CSR mission and purpose (Source: Cone Communications, October 2012).
In an arena of a plethora of me-too products and services, the brands that’s commitment to something higher its own self-interest will attract and sustain a competitive advantage.
However, with Shared Activism on the rise there is a danger of a backlash from skeptical consumers. ‘Greenwashing’ (which Wikipedia describes as the “deceptive use of green PR or green marketing in order to promote a misleading perception that a company’s policies or products are environmentally friendly’) has been replaced with another consumer deception technique: ‘Goodwashing’, which is simply a parallel concept of ‘Greenwashing’.
It’s the same disingenuous idea but goes beyond environmental sustainability to imply deceptive use of marketing.Whitewashing the facts will no longer wash with an increasingly cynical public.
What’s the butterfly effect?
Fortune 50 brands as well as a rising social entrepreneurs class are quickly creating a third pillar of social change in addition to government and philanthropy. Beyond a genuine desire to contribute, they are doing this to shore up the wellbeing of the society on which their businesses depend, to respond to consumer demands borne out by research, and because when they support a cause that is truly alignment with the mission of their brand they reinforce the for-profit narrative that the brand is telling to market its products.
Proctor and Gamble and the work it’s doing through its Pampers brand in partnership with UNICEF is a tangible example of big business making a huge social difference. When a shopper buys a packet of Pampers diapers it funds a tetanus vaccination for a mother or newborn child in the developing world. To date, P&G had funded over 30 million vaccinations saving an estimated 100,000 lives.
Through its Nike Green XChange, Nike has shared the intellectual property behind their products so they can work with other companies to address climate change together. They launched the Environment Design Tool revealing to competitors how they reduce the carbon footprint of their supply chain. Nike’s ‘Better World,’ Starbuck’s ‘Shared Planet,’ Coca-Cola’s Open Happiness,’ the Pepsi Refresh Project and IBM’s ‘Smarter Planet’ are excellent examples of pioneer platforms for co-creative storytelling with their customers directed towards a shared social purpose. In October 2012, Microsoft celebrated their 30th Employee Giving Campaign and announced the milestone achievement of $1 billion in employee contributions (inclusive of company match) to more than 31,000 nonprofits around the world since 1983
The global hot spots
South Africa: Coca-Cola and MTN are the most active, socially responsible companies according to a nationwide survey of South African consumers.
The world-famous beverage brand and telecom giant MTN, which was recently crowned Africa’s biggest brand, were named “far more regularly than other companies as being the most socially responsible”, according to the research by First Principles.
China: Walmart China recently held a nationwide community campaign with the theme of “Caring about Climate Change, Making our Planet Healthier”, attracting more than 60,000 customers from 100 communities to participate.
India: Norvatis Drug Company’s Arogya Parivar initiative has improved access to medicine for 42 million rural patients across 33,000 villages in 10 states in America. According to their website, Novartis aims to reach the 7 million people living at the bottom of the pyramid in rural India.
France: Parfums Christian Dior’s production site is committed to the hiring and training of socially-disadvantaged employees.