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July 5, 2007

Cause Marketing vs. Corporate Responsibility

Posted by Brian Zopf | Filed under: Philosophy

Perhaps I shouldn't pit them against one another, but I wanted to give you a clear title you could sink your teeth into. In reality, the two terms above are often complimentary, albeit distinct.

Whenever I meet someone new--whether a prospective client or someone just interested in cause marketing--I've noticed that there tends to be some confusion in the differences between corporate responsibility and cause marketing. So I thought ... "I'll blog about it!"

I should say, first, that at Personality™, we're faithful subscribers to the Cause Marketing Forum and that the information in this entry is from one of their excellent tele-classes (available to members only).

According to Carol Cone of Cone, Inc.--one of the founding gurus of the category--the following are a few of the key differences between cause marketing (or "cause branding") and corporate responsibility. More than an exercise in semantics, understanding the difference between the two definitions will help you properly delineate company strategies and set priorities.

Cause Marketing

  1. Helps to answer the question: "What does your organization stand for?"

  2. Brand and marketing driven

  3. Issues are very focused

  4. Primary audiences are typically: employees, consumers, customers or 'influentials'

  5. Key Objectives: brand loyalty, emotional relevance, enhanced relationships with employees and consumers alike
  6. Corporate Responsibility

    1. Helps to answer the question: What does your organization do, and how?

    2. Operations driven

    3. Issues are broad and diverse

    4. Primary audiences typically vary

    5. Key Objectives: innovation, business efficiency, risk management and compliance

    If clothing company X decides to stop using child labor and instead, increases the salaries, improves the working conditions, etc. of a new group of overseas workers ... that's corporate responsibility. They're doing what they're supposed to do by minimizing the 'footprint' left in the social sand, while still maintaining their business. No one faults companies for their profit-making endeavors--we just all agree that they need to do them without destroying other people's lives, the environment, etc.

    On the other hand, if that same clothing company decides to partner with Career Gear--the nonprofit we mentioned on Monday that helps get men on their feet through the provision of business attire and career training--that would be a clear case of cause marketing. Company X may contribute or partner with Career Gear in any number of ways. They may provide suits free of charge for a committed period of time, may donate money directly to various initiatives and projects, may pledge to educate its brand's customers, etc. It has less to do with the fallout from their production, specifically, and more to do with giving back out of the wealth of resources the company enjoys.

    The first story above would probably happen quietly--as more a matter of integrity and character should consumers scratch the surface--whereas the second story is one that should be told far and wide.

    Do you see the difference? Both are good and necessary. But where corporate responsibility is more or less expected and assumed (i.e. not doing evil); cause marketing goes above and beyond (i.e. doing extra good).

    And there you have it.

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