Good corporate citizenship is a bit like serving in the Peace Corp: you can't really do it half-cocked or just for a couple of weeks; you can't say you've done it if you are only thinking about doing it (or saying you did it to impress girls, but don't have results to back it up); you shouldn't even consider doing it if you actually don't care about the people you are going to help, and are actually in it to pad your resume or avoid the draft; and you should try to stay involved with your projects even after you leave.
But if marketers at major brands are trying to honestly figure out how corporate citizenship can be part of business rather than a cost center for pure philanthropy (or, to borrow a cliché, how to "do well by doing good") a new study by Landor unveiled in Cannes this week should help them make the case to their boards.
The three-month study Landor did with Grey, Millward Brown and Hill & Knowlton of how companies and brands like Pepsi, P&G, IBM, Nike, and Dannon are figuring out that profit in consumer product marketing doesn't have to mean the same thing it does on Wall Street; e.g., it doesn't have to be about making as much money as possible by any means necessary and then figuring out a way to make it someone else's problem when the chickens come home to roost. In fact, the study points out, brands will only succeed long term if they do good.
"I think as we have these conversations we realized that they are not even thinking about it as marketing or branding," says Scott Osman, global director corporate social responsibility. "The real shift is that [successful companies] see this is part of business, not just 'how do I talk about it.'"
Osman tells Marketing Daily that while smaller companies like Tom Shoes, Ben and Jerry's and Patagonia are known for taking this holistic perspective, "more interesting for us is these big global companies integrating their ability to create social good. That's the big highlight: social good and business good are no longer in conflict." Corporate citizenship is not, in other words, like a mob enforcer saying novenas on Sunday. "It's not about doing good through philanthropy to make up for whatever you are doing to make money."
The study, "Dispatches from a New Business Horizon," argues that corporations' social good can only be attained when business strategy, brand strategy, and social strategy are aligned. Among principles the study suggests: Make a difference from your position of strength; Walk then talk; Partner for breakthroughs; and Innovate permanently.
PepsiCo, says Osman, demonstrates that companies that are serious about this shift in culture must also make social responsibility their mission statement. "PepsiCo's mantra is 'performance with purpose' and they have said they want to move the company to a place where they produce healthy food. That is the biggest purpose statement of almost anyone out there," Osman says. "They are saying, 'Let's put research and development behind products that are both highly desired and healthy. I think that's what's behind their statement."
Another example is Nike. "When you go to [corporate headquarters in] Beaverton [Ore.] and talk to the people there, what they start talking about is this whole model of the business shifting from producing and selling authentic sports apparel and being a product delivery company, to focusing on bringing out the athlete in everyone. They are talking about the ability for everyone to have access to sport," he says. "It's a subtle shift to moving further upstream philosophically to helping people be more active; it's saying, 'We create a healthier society and engage people who are buying our product. And doing that will increase demand for our product.'"
The key, in terms of how companies that are making this change talk about it, is that they don't talk about it. Osman says, typically, they may spend years on programs and stay mum until they have a history behind them. "It's totally the opposite of all talk and little action."
Other examples that spotlight this kind of perspective are P&G's PUR brand, whose powdered formula for purifying water allows one to simply stir a packet's worth of the substance into contaminated water. "They have a long commitment to this idea of improving lives. They are doing it in a lot of ways and taking a leadership position."
Dannon's work in India, a collaboration with the Grameen Bank, involved marketing a type of yogurt that provided undernourished kids with nutrients that regular yogurt lacks. He says they built a there factory, sold the product and then donated the factory to the community. "Part of the story is, Dannon got a reasonable return, though not the kind they could have made, but the massive pop behind it is they have now elevated the health of community, and now when Dannon wants to sell other products they have a lasting relationship with that community."