Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is an integral part of present-time management approaches.
The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) defines CSR as a “management concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and interactions with stakeholders”.
This definition encompasses a broad spectrum of social, environmental and economic aspects.
Generally, people and communities – as the support and customer bases of businesses – are more socially aware or ‘woke’ and expect their brands to be socially responsible.
In March 2020, when the world experienced the first grips of the coronavirus, Forbes reported that 81% of customers felt that brands should earn consumer trust and 66% thought that brands should take a stance on contemporary, global issues.
Therefore, organisations aim to merge and balance their social, environmental and economic responsibilities.
Cause marketing gives voice to these corporate intentions and should be considered in the company’s financial planning.
These marketing drives can have dual functions.
A company can either support a non-profit organisation or advocate a stance on certain issues.
Forbes, in its report, stressed that companies and their associated brands should align their CSR goals to current social climates, such as the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Flexibility and adaptability can cultivate a sense of trust and reassure customers in difficult times.
Advertising professionals believe that the incorporation of cause marketing strategies in CSR policies benefit a company on several levels, such as:
• Answering pleas to establish, acknowledge and action CSR.
• Bettering a company’s social image and brand loyalty.
• Establishing and sustaining community trust relationships.
• Setting itself apart from competitors.
Although the benefits of cause marketing are obvious, these campaigns should take all the implications of a marketing message into account.
People have differing views and linking a brand to a social statement or cause evokes both positive and negative reactions.
Modern-day, woke societies, fuelled by the instant availability of news and schools of thought on social media, no longer accept vague or ambiguous associations and declarations.
Businesses must therefore tread carefully and put extensive thought into how marketing messages will be received and perceived by target audiences.
Experts highlight that, at the very least, these marketing approaches should:
• Conscientiously decide on the cause. When people can connect a brand with its chosen cause, it automatically cultivates trust and shows customers that a company remains true to its values. This further implies that the company can identify and satisfy the needs of its target audience.
• Do more than just make contributions to a random non-profit. Although donations are much-needed, customers expect real effort and not just window dressing. Boosting the cause of the non-profit by getting the word out through short videos on company websites or sourcing volunteers from the company staff pool are some ways to display genuine interest.
• Address co-marketing initiatives and opportunities. This establishes a mutually beneficial platform between brands and their causes. Simple things such as mutual tags on social media promote the brands and their associated non-profits.
An industry expert, such as Purecontent, is the lifeline of any cause marketing strategy and campaign – these specialists know how to identify and avoid the pitfalls while optimising brand exposure.