CSR Is The New 'Branded Content'

Today's reality consists of multiple media channels, new technologies and consumers who have a short attention span. Traditional communications are no longer sufficient for creating loyal fans or bringing the brand to the forefront. This new reality demands a new approach to engaging consumers; this is where corporate social responsibility (CSR) as branded content comes in.

CSR offers solutions that are required by modern branding in order to deal with the new digitally enabled interconnected business environment of the 21st century. This involves taking the message of a brand and using it to produce entertainment that consumers are interested in and want to engage with. By producing these new entertainment experiences brands gain significant publicity. When brand entertainment is based on the things that really matter, consumers volunteer their attention. It is a move from interruption to attraction.

Using CSR in branded content allows companies to demonstrate their approach to CSR and address sustainability issues that are important to both the organization and its consumers. This allows consumers to engage with brands. Take the Dove Evolution of Beauty video as an example. The portrayal of women in the media and self-esteem are ultimately sustainability issues.

Many women feel strongly about these issues, and because of this, women will listen to what Dove has to say. By responding to women's concerns, Dove is building the social value of its brand and in so doing, enhancing emotional value and brand identity. This strategy has only worked for Dove because it is part of their long term therefore credible commitment to CSR.

Events that encompass CSR are another example. Innocent Smoothies, a brand underpinned by its overall approach to sustainability, hosts an annual festival in London, the Innocent Village Fete. The event is a physical and authentic representation of what the brand believes in: community, sustainability, healthy living and, of course, fun.

The annual event has helped to turn customers into supporters by hosting memorable brand experiences that aim to make people's lives better, while raising money for a good cause. The event allows Innocent to promote its new Smoothie flavors to festival-goers, while giving them the opportunity to wander around the farmers market, visit charity stalls and enjoy the music.

The benefits of using CSR as part of branded content are endless; foremost it helps to build a brands reputation and is a point of differentiation. It also encourages consumer interest and helps to build consumer trust and loyalty. If consumers see that brands are addressing the issues that are important to them, it follows that they are likely to continue to buy their products.

CSR provides a goldmine of stories that can form the basis of branded content. However, companies are often doing good work behind the scenes through CSR initiatives that brand marketers don't even know about. At the same time, these brand teams are desperately looking for meaningful stories to create engaging messages and capture their consumers' attention.

Businesses must make the relationships among the CSR team, marketing team and advertising agency seamless, to bring their sustainability stories to the forefront of branded content. The brands of the future will be the ones that integrate sustainability into their vision and communicate this effectively to consumers.

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1 comment about "CSR Is The New 'Branded Content' ".
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  1. Peter Schankowitz from Joe Digital, Inc., May 22, 2009 at 12:29 p.m.

    This is EXCLLENT. As we try to get brands to understand the new equation and its sub-sets (Great Content + Strategic Distribution = Loyal Participants), its nice to see someone so eloquently offer up one key solution on the "great content" side. We all know its about delivering personal value via authenticity. Appealing to the consumer's deeply rooted, intrinsic passions via CSR---done correctly---is one amazing way to deliver the goods. Like the post above notes, if a brand can live a core principle inside and out, people will notice. If the effort is not GENUINE, i.e., just another hunk of branding "fashion", they will smell it in a second. The BS meter is on high folks. Diane---well done, well said, and I am sure, well received.

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