Many green marketing programs evolved along the cause-marketing model. Cause marketing is attaching your brand to a cause with consumer appeal and piling on media/promotion. The program typically supports change through donations to non-profits, puts a halo around the brand, and hopefully generates business results. Principally, though, it's philanthropy. It is an image game; putting on a "being good" veneer. There may be corporate concern for the adopted cause, but cause marketing generally does not directly affect the root issue.
Our world's most pressing issues -- from global warming to AIDS -- require people changing behavior more than simply writing a check. Just giving money to these causes is important but does not address the fundamental education and behavior change needed to meaningfully impact the issues.
If you had to choose between giving a small donation to an environmental organization to fight global warming, or switching to LED lights (and then getting all your friends and neighbors to switch their lights, too ... and so on), choose the physical change every time. This approach is the core difference between effect marketing (long-term behavioral changes that impact issues) and cause marketing (transactional promotions that link a business to a cause).
Sustainability demands a shift to creating an effect rather than simply marketing a cause. Before marketers can make any of the essential moves, they need to shift orientation and distinguish effect programs.
Here are some tangible examples:
Sustainability pioneers have created business models that make social change inherent to their products. What's more, they measure their impact on both levels: social impact and profit.Sustainability pioneers such as Ben & Jerry's and Stonyfield have created business models that make social change inherent to their products. What's more, they measure their impact on both levels: social impact and profit.
Stonyfield started selling yogurt to support its organic farming school and now it gives 10% of its profits to efforts that help protect and restore the earth such as a corporate climate rating non-profit, Climate Counts. Ben & Jerry's has three different mission statements (social, economic and product) to help it focus on all three.
Overall, today's leaders in corporate social responsibility are taking an effect-marketing approach to sustainability. They're not calling it that -- yet -- but their actions are establishing a new standard.
The key: Social change is central to every business decision of the product or service life cycle, including what constitutes effective marketing. Their marketing campaigns rally all stakeholders -- customers, employees and affiliates -- into direct action. And it's not just the biggest brands; smaller companies are making a difference, too.
While most companies can't replace business models overnight, they can take meaningful steps in the right direction. Effect marketers consider how their companies can be engines of social change by continually asking three essential questions:
1. What specific actions are we taking -- and, by design, encouraging consumers to take -- on the social issues we're committed to influencing?
2. How can we re-envision our business culture to drive social change?
3. What are we doing to measure and report the impact our business has on society, both positive and negative?
Just staring Question One in the face is enough to shift a company toward a more sustainable business model. Ultimately, though, consumers will demand that we follow through on all three questions and, likely, many more. So, are you ready to answer?