Apparently, both McDonald’s and Coca-Cola are looking at how ‘combining commercial and social purpose’ could help them encourage customers to buy into their brands long-term.
While obviously big corporations tackling societal issues is, in its essence, a good thing, the worry is that it might turn off customers. Building parks for disadvantaged families and donating money to charity is great and all, so long as it’s genuine; if consumers can hear gleeful hands rubbing together at the prospect of a public image (or worse, profit) boost, it can actually end up having a negative impact on the brand.
That said, there are ways to do it well. So, which consumer brands are doing a good job of combining social and commercial purposes?
TOMS One for One
What sets TOMS apart? Their ‘One for One’ cause isn’t used as a PR or promotions tool – it’s an integral part of their business model.
People wear TOMS because, I don’t know, they’re fashion conscious, or just really love any excuse not to wear socks during the day. Whatever. But for every product TOMS sell they donate shoes, glasses, and water to people in need.
TOMS’ devotion to benefitting a social cause isn’t directly used to boost custom – but customers know that for every pair of shoes they buy, they really are doing good. What can be more genuine than that?
Innocent’s promotion of social causes is so good that consumers actually think they’re even more charitable than they are; they’re often mistaken for a social enterprise, despite the fact that they only donate 10% – rather than 50%+ – of their profits to charitable causes (though let me add, that’s still awesome).
That misconception demonstrates just how inextricable their social purpose has become from their commercial. Add to that their brilliant Age UK campaign, where 25p from every behatted drink sold is donated to Age UK, and you can see why they’re the nation’s juicy sweethearts.
Lush already has a huge number of selling points. Their products are vegetarian and made from natural, ethical ingredients. Their packaging is recyclable; in fact, they even offer incentives for you to bring your tubs back into store to be re-used.
They also sell the Charity Pot, a regularly changing product that last year raised £898,000 for small charities, campaigns and organisations. Alongside that are their various campaigns against animal testing, which you can find out more about here.
Lush, like Innocent, is able to boost its already positive image effectively because the nature of its products fit with its causes; both the brands serve natural, ‘healthy’ products, which seems to make their do-good nature appear more genuine.
These are just a few businesses that incorporate social causes into the brand strategy. There are lots of big companies, however, that do it too – often devoting whole areas of their sites to how they’re helping their community (take a look at our friends Boots, for example).
At Together, we know there’s always more good we can do. We’re always actively looking for ways we can support the local community and budding creative talent, because how can you claim to love your home if, when you’re in a position to do so, you aren’t willing to give it a helping hand?
For a more in-depth look at how brands might work successfully with good causes, read our blog: ‘Brand purpose and profit – can we square the circle?‘