Villing & Company

Do You Have a Brand Cause?

Lately I’ve been very involved in several projects and discussions involving what we refer to as brand trust. This issue reminds me of the writings of Al Golin. Golin was a confidante of Ray Kroc, McDonald’s founder, and Golin’s agency has provided public relations counsel to the company for over a half century.

Golin’s theory is a simple one. He believes that building consumer trust is like a savings account. Positive actions like quality products, good service, fair pricing and organizational integrity are deposits into the trust bank. Over time, this goodwill account grows and pays dividends. Withdrawals can come in the form of missteps, mistakes and scandals. Ideally, the assets in the trust account are more than sufficient to withstand any negative activity.

Fortunately, there are ways to increase the value of your brand and they are as elementary as the golden rule. A recent international study* revealed that 83 percent of people are willing to change consumption habits if it can make the world a better place to live. Specific causes that consumers personally care about are:

  • Protecting the environment – 91%
  • Improving the quality of healthcare – 89%
  • Reducing poverty – 87%
  • Alleviating hunger and homelessness – 86%

Based on these findings (and common sense), there are opportunities for marketers to “do well by doing good.” But lest the cynics think they can spin insincerity into marketing gold, I believe consumers are often intuitively equipped with phony-finders. While commitment to a cause can be a powerful marketing tool, it must also be part of the company culture. Disingenuousness or failure to live up to one’s stated ideals not only debilitates trust, it can lead to the death of the brand.

Let’s consider some positive examples of businesses that have built their brands on being socially conscious. The business model at Tom’s Shoes is a simple one. For every pair of shoes that a customer purchases, another pair is given free to a child in need. Not familiar with Tom’s Shoes, how about Patagonia? This company is totally committed to environmental responsibility from its Common Threads Garment Recycling Initiative to the 1% for the Planet program. Ben & Jerry’s makes more than great ice cream. The company made its reputation by its commitment to social responsibility.

As noted earlier, building brand trust around a cause (sometimes referred to as cause marketing) has its rewards as well as its risks. Neither should be taken lightly. But at the end of the day, don’t you feel better doing business with a company that is really trying to be a good corporate citizen? So do most people.

* Source: Edelman goodpurpose™ Consumer Study

Filed Under: branding

Villing & Company

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