More Companies Are Incorporating Social Responsibility Into Their Marketing Strategies

“Corporate social responsibility can benefit the company in more than one way,” a reporter writes in the Houston Chronicle. “It can improve the public perception of the company, increase sales and improve employee morale.”

In the first quarter of this year, however, there seems to have been uptick in consumer brands that have been using high-exposure advertising vehicles for this purpose. Even without the support of data, the reasoning seems rather obvious. Clearly, they’re trying to capture the loyalty of the millennial consumer or employee, for whom CEOs are quickly learning that a good deal, or a good paycheck, is no longer enough.

“Companies are trying to capture the loyalty of the millennial consumer or employee, for whom CEOs are quickly learning that a good deal, or a good paycheck, is no longer enough.”

For example, in a new version of its old Pepsi Challenge campaign, PepsiCo donated $1 to the Liter of Light Foundation, an organization that provides sustainable lighting to more than 18 countries, every time customers used the hashtag #PepsiChallenge on their social-media profiles.

McDonald’s showed an ad during the Super Bowl with videos of real customers at checkout who were asked to pay for their food with caring gestures such as telling why they loved their mothers. Lucky winners were also surprised with products that were being advertised by other Super Bowl marketers, such as new cars.

Meanwhile, Coldwell Banker aired a TV commercial during the Oscars in February promoting the adoption of homeless dogs. Besides helping out the pooches, Coldwell Banker wanted to make emotional connections with American homeowners and buyers, Sean Blankenship, chief marketing officer for Coldwell Banker, told CEO Briefing, to differentiate itself from rivals that concentrate on the nuts and bolts of the home-buying process.

And Whirlpool, America’s biggest appliance company, launched its “Every day, care” campaign, which tied the emotion invested in mundane household chores—performed with its appliances, of course—to the broader emotional connections between family members and loved ones. It culminated during the recent Grammys telecast in an ad where country music star Hunter Hayes introduced the Whirlpool brand’s “Care is Musical” contest winner Alex Bell.

The 19-year-old then appeared singing “You Are My Sunshine” for her grandmother, who was diagnosed with dementia in 2010. The “caring” platform has worked for Whirlpool.

This strategy is particularly significant in the ongoing search for the best talent, as well.

“Employers are trying to inject meaning into the daily grind, connecting profit-driven endeavors to grand consequences for mankind,” The Wall Street Journal reported recently.

At Travelzoo, for example, an online travel site, CEO Chris Loughlin has described their job to the 438 employees as having a higher calling than just booking a customer on a cheap trip to the Caribbean: “If we all traveled, there would be significantly more peace on Earth,” he has told them, according to the Journal.

Meanwhile, a recent KPMG survey of its own employees found that those whose managers talked about the firm’s impact on society were 42 percent more likely to describe KPMG as a great place to work.

The benefit here is clear. Whether your company is B2C or B2B, millennials are moving into the workforce. Every day, they are, more and more, increasing their consumer spending power as well as their influence on the job in areas such as technology purchasing, sales and marketing, and their buying decisions are closely tied to their social conscience. The challenge for CEOs will be to prepare their company for the long-term in a way that ensures it will be relevant for the millennial audience. The time to start is now.

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