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An Introduction to Social Cause

July 14, 2009Sparxoo

branding, marketing and business strategy through social causes

By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer

Why incorporate a social cause into your brand? You might have seen cookies for cancer, wristbands, red computers, “organic” shoes and countless other consumer products sponsoring social initiatives. Cause-driven business has transformed our market economy landscape in profound, and positive ways. In today’s world, the social entrepreneur falls in ranks with the for-profit entrepreneur. This trend of cause-driven business is changing the way we do business. For-profit companies have enlisted the buying power of their customers to create social impact and transform the everyday consumer into a change-agent.

We will explore many areas of this growing social movement through a series of posts. We will discover answers to questions such as: How can a social cause engage your customers in a more profound way; rally your team; and elevate your brand? Before incorporating a social mission, there are many things to consider. We will define a social mission;  explore key trends driving the social cause movement; get you thinking about why and how you can integrate it into your brand; and how to market it.

Social Cause Trends – Social action is more than just a check. The paradigm is shifting towards doing more. It’s about being creative and thinking strategically about your mission and ways of implementing it. How are you going to aggregate and connect with your change-agents? Does your strategy involve Twitter hashtags? How are you going to speak to the individuality and unique passions of your audience? Social cause initiatives are about stretching the imagination to do more and break new ground.

Why Should Entrepreneurs Start a Social Mission – Increasingly, for-profit companies are aligning their brands with social missions to make a lasting impact on the world, elevate their brand visibility and building meaningful relationships. Incorporating a social cause into your brand can command additional attention and separate you from your competition. Whether it’s a national video contest or a local blood drive, a social initiative is an aspirational philosophy to strengthen the social fabric of our world and your team. Finding the right social mission can rally your team and steer your company towards a collective passion-driven objective. If you’re company wants to reach beyond more than just monetary impact, a social cause could be an excellent avenue to meet your ambitious goals. Though there are many benefits of launching a social initiative, the primary business benefit should be about authenticity. Without a genuine passion for change, it might be challenging to leverage your expertise to make meaningful impact.

How to Incorporate a Social Mission – There are many ways to incorporate a social mission into your business. For existing companies, it’s about finding a passion point that has meaning to your team and is relevant to your product / service. Some companies take baby steps. For example, Ruby Tuesday checks off the social cause box by adding a “cause cookie” to their menu. A portion of cookie purchase goes to a charity. This social cause footnote might show Ruby Tuesdays doing something, does not demonstrate a profound passion for change. Serious social passion can be found in social entrepreneurs. Serial social entrepreneurs are stretching their creativity and business savvy to fully integrate social cause into the business model. TOMS Shoes, for instance, donates a pair of shoes to a person without, for every pair sold. Their success is a testament to the power of cause-driven business and its influence on purchase behavior.

Marketing a Social Cause – Setting ambitious, but realistic goals is essential in any marketing initiative. A social cause is a venture to build your brand equity and make meaningful impact at the same time. Once you’ve established your goals, it’s time to get creative. Develop a concrete concept that is tangible for your audience. Are you going to have a “jail-break” like the creative folks from the Muscular Dystrophy Association? To “break out of jail,” participants must raise “bail.” Charity functions can often times be blasé and uninteresting. MDA made it remarkable by injecting fun and creativity into their charity event. Wouldn’t you know it, the MDA event gets more press than your typical fundraiser.

Social Causes in Music and Culture – Live Aide, Farm Aide, War Child, Save the Music are examples of charity concerts and music-driven charities you might have heard before. From the cause-powered movements in the punk underground (think Food not Bombs) to Bono’s Product (RED), we will explore how charity is woven into our cultural fabric and continues to inspire change. Just as music has the ability to move and save fans in a profound, emotional way, it also has the ability to facilitate philanthropic initiatives.

Photo by Petr Kovar from Stock.Xchng