June 8, 2011

Being socially responsible can make you a smarter marketer

Advertisements, Sponsorships, Endorsements can get you awareness and more importantly gain your brand an image that you may want to set with your customers – however all at a premium price. But how does an organization earn a reputation or credibility without spending millions of dollars? The answer is simple these days.

With the availability of the internet around the world, millions of customers can be targeted through most commonly available channels through the use of social media. What’s even better is that using these social mediums such as facebook, twitter, blogs – can gain you the feedback of thousands of customers and future prospects all in one place. This is what it’s all about these days – gaining the confidence and trust of your consumers through online channels and in turn setting your brand credibility through the ‘voice of the customer’. There is much to be said about your own organization/product by your marketing heads but getting customers to willing endorse it – is a whole different ball game. And earned media is just that – having the consumer pass along a message about your brand through word of mouth or virally through such social media channels.

Since most corporations are already using social media for viral marketing, I want to focus on a different approach that can be taken in the space of earned media. Corporate Social Responsibility. Independently, CSR activities are policy functions performed to keep in line with corporate law and ethical standards. The goal of CSR is to take responsibility and encourage a positive impact through its activities on the environment, customers, employees and communities.  So the obvious question now is – what does CSR have to do with the topic of ‘Earned Media’? Lots. Environmental achievements as an organization can be considered another medium to reach out to large audiences, attract attention and gain credibility while doing something good for the environment. However, many overlook this opportunity as a ‘marketing tool’. Think about all the companies that are promoting corporate social responsibility –IBM, Hewlett-Packard, McDonalds, Nike, Nokia, Starbucks, Xerox; the list is endless. Many of their efforts are related to reducing the ‘Carbon Footprint’ or the ‘Go Green’ initiative and some even prefer to keep their activities contained within the organization. But what if you take these initiatives outside the 4 walls of the corporate headquarters?

Being a socially responsible corporation can go a long way. It can help provide free advertising as well as branding of your organization as a green brand while helping build public awareness on topics such as reducing pollution, recycling, conserving electricity and keeping your environment clean. You may be a business who produces green products or an organization which has many environmental achievements, both of which are a good candidate for using CSR towards as an earned media source.

We also know through CSR monitor reports that more people are willing to pay more for products produced in a socially and environmentally responsible manner in order to promote a healthier and a safer environment. Now imagine increasing your customer base or your product sales purely because of taking up a green initiative or sponsoring a cleanup drive? Distribute company branded t-shirts to all the volunteers who help clean up the city, provide merits to employees who use eco-friendly products, get a tax break to each employee who bikes to work or provide or give a discount to each customer who uses recycled bags for groceries. Remember, having loyal and engaging customers can go a long way, because not only do they add credibility to your organization but also provide a way for you to gain a reputation through the voice of the customer while making the world a better place to live in. So I suggest we all try to be more socially responsible than illustrated in the example below…


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