As both Nike and Gillette have shown in recent months, cause marketing is becoming an increasingly core part of a brand’s marketing strategy. From societal and political issues and more, businesses aren’t afraid to take a definitive stand when it comes to potentially controversial topics.
But does this have an impact on the brand’s perception with consumers and, more importantly, sales and revenue? Does cause marketing attract consumers, or turn them off?
In this week’s episode of Marketing on Tap, we look at how brands are adapting to the new consumer behaviours when it comes to causes they believe in, and whether they’re genuinely altruistic or simply riding a trend.
Settle back and enjoy this week’s topic, brought to you in the usual unscripted manner that you’ve come to expect when Sam and Danny take the mic.
If you prefer to listen on the go, the audio version of this week’s episode can be listened to below.
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This week’s beer is the Winter Stout from The Collingwood Brewery.
Intro: Join marketers, authors, and craft beer enthusiasts, Sam Fiorella and Danny Brown for a hoppy discussion on all things digital over a cheeky pint or two. Topics on the menu include influence marketing, social media, brand advocacy, and a taste-testing of real-world, digital marketing campaigns. Some are smooth, others don’t sit so well. Don’t forget to stick around for last call, where the boys will serve you up one final marketing takeaway that you can go out and apply in the real world. It’s a great primer before the weekend.
Sam Fiorella: Welcome back everybody to another episode of Marketing on Tap, my name again is Sam Fiorella, this is my mate Danny Brown.
Danny Brown: You did your gun fingers.
Sam Fiorella: Did the gun fingers.
Danny Brown: It’s been awhile, but you did them.
Sam Fiorella: Yeah. I’ve been sitting on my hands for a lot of this, it’s hard for an Italian to not use his hands. Anyway Danny, today I was inspired by an article that I read. It was a lot of changes happening in cause marketing, and I’m noticing that companies like Toms Shoes and Starbucks have made it part of their corporate ethos to get involved in corporate social responsibility programs. But what I’ve been noticing a lot is that more and more companies are starting to move toward sustainability as their cause. So climate change and environmental sustainability.
Sam Fiorella: An example is SC Johnson that released a new bottle for its Windex glass cleaner. It’s part of what we’re going to be talking about today. It’s made with 100% recycled ocean plastic. And it’s getting a lot of buzz in the industry. But will this actually translate to business? That’s what I want to sort of tackle in today’s discussion. Will it have any effect on consumer attitudes and behavior, something that we’re always trying to take a look at.
Sam Fiorella: And I also want to explore today the 2017 Cone Communications SCR study that provides some really interesting stats around consumer behavior and how they react to brands that take up one of these cause marketing efforts or campaigns. So anyways, that’s what we’re going to do today. How does a business tackle this? Is there a good way or a bad way for them to invest in corporate social responsibility? So stay tuned, for those of you that … Stay tuned for those of you …
Danny Brown: And again with the gunshot fingers.
Sam Fiorella: Yeah, because I’m going to shoot you if you don’t. That’s what we’re going to be talking about, and I think it’ll be a really interesting conversation. So Danny, what are you pouring before we actually get into the meat of this conversation?
Danny Brown: Well, since it’s currently snowing outside and creating a mini blizzard, and what is it minus 18 today?
Sam Fiorella: Minus 18.
Danny Brown: Time to go back to winter beers. A nice winter stout from friends at Collingwood who so far have not created a bad beer that we’ve found yet.
Sam Fiorella: No.
Danny Brown: But it’s been mostly summer, spring, you know normal core season beers. Not seasonal. This is like a winter stout, so it’s spiced, got oatmeal through it, you’ve got cocoa, orange, and cinnamon running through this.
Sam Fiorella: Cocoa, orange cinnamon. Interesting.
Danny Brown: It’s not high ABV, it’s only 5%, pretty easy-drinking on a 30 IBU all ready Anna’s shaking her head on questionability. Try that. Any how, winter stout from the guys up at Collingwood Brewing.
Sam Fiorella: All right, cheers everybody.
Danny Brown: Cheers.
Sam Fiorella: Got my Anna cam.
Anna: I like this one.
Sam Fiorella: It’s not gonna bite you Anna, you can sip it.
Anna: I can sip it again.
Sam Fiorella: Okay well it looks like it’s Anna approved.
Danny Brown: That’s nice, it’s got nice little kick to it with the cinnamon. And the spice is coming through.
Sam Fiorella: Yeah no I like it it. It’s not as, even if it’s a stout it drinks more like an ale.
Danny Brown: Yeah.
Sam Fiorella: Than it does a stout. It’s not that thick.
Danny Brown: Yeah.
Sam Fiorella: You almost, from the looks of it you’re expecting a Guinness creaminess out of it which this doesn’t have. I like it. All right thank you guys at, well actually to be clear when I say thank you, thank you for making such a great beer. Collingwood brewery, but we’re not sponsored by Collingwood or any other beer manufacturer for that, or brewer for that matter. All though if you want to, give us a call. We’re always happy to accept free beer.
Sam Fiorella: Okay Danny, let’s get into the conversation. I want to start with that study that I found. We have a lot of our clients have been asking do I get involved in any of this cause marketing? Is it important? We’ve been talking on and off about some of these things, the boycott issue that we talked about in the last one. People seem to be afraid to get involved in something like this, yet they see companies like Bell Canada with its let’s talk movement that are a really at least from a PR perspective profiting from getting involved. So one of these campaigns I thought was interesting. Oh sorry this study was interesting. One of the lessons learned that from this survey of consumer behavior on how they view businesses that take up one of these causes. One of the lessons learned was in a time of political unrest, consumers are looking beyond governments to address key social and environmental issues.
Sam Fiorella: Which I thought was fascinating. Two thirds of Americans believe that progress on these key issues will be slowed by a potential absence of government regulation and so are looking to businesses. I thought that was fascinating because normally it’s way business stay out of this, just sell your product, don’t try and tell me how to live my life, and yet two thirds of Americans say no no no, government is clearly not going to do anything about this. We want somebody to do it and businesses need to stand up. Is this an opportunity for businesses?
Danny Brown: Yeah definitely. I’m reading a really good book at the moment called Utopia for Realists.
Sam Fiorella: You read?
Danny Brown: Now and again if it’s a good book. You know like a certain marketing book from five years ago. But yeah, no and it’s a really good read and it ties into this where it has so many stories and pinnacle proof about how government wants to keep the status quo when there’s a better option. And that’s why we’re seeing in the US such a sweep of the democrats that keep it powered in the big towns, et cetera. They need a change in how government performs. And brands have stepped up like Starbucks. They’ve been one of the guys that have all ways stepped up. Obviously Nike, and they’ve just released a new one. So they’re seeing, brands are seeing what happens when they take a stand and try and make a social change through cause marketing. And as the consumers sweep to that of course the brands are going to say okay, we’ve got some power here.
Sam Fiorella: But how aligned are they? Another insight from this study was that consumers reward value aligned brands. The idea here is that consumers are using the companies value or what they state their values are as a filter for whether they should support or even punish for that matter, an organization. The actual statistic was 87% of consumers stated that they would purchase a product based on the business’s values, because the company advocated for an issue they cared about. And 76% would boycott a brand if supported by an issue contrary to their beliefs. Which is fascinating, again it’s this we talked about this the last couple of weeks. It’s this far extreme one way, far extreme the other. And do you take advantage of that or not?
Danny Brown: Well it’s funny you mentioned, and I’m sure we’ll talk about it in a bit, but you mentioned SC Johnson and their current campaign. And to that very point, a lot of the feedback or the push back to the SC Johnson company is the campaign itself is great, the recycled bottle was pulling out from the sea, et cetera. However, making stuff in the first place that needs to be recycled and ends up in the oceans kind of counters your message.
Sam Fiorella: Why don’t we talk about that for a little bit? I’m not sure if everybody listening understands, knows the story. But Windex, everybody knows Windex, the glass cleaner. So it’s made by SC Johnson and they’ve taken a pretty big stand. They’re the first company, major company to come out with a cleaning product where the bottle, so this is their Windex vinegar, Windex vinegar cleaner, it’s the bottle is 100% made from 100% recyclable ocean plastic, which is fantastic.
Danny Brown: It’s from the Chinese seas or somewhere they took it from.
Sam Fiorella: Yeah, so basically they’re up there, they partner with an organization who cleans up the plastic from the oceans and then recycle that and turn it back into a consumable product, which again is brilliant. The problem is is that they’re cleaning up something that they probably helped create. Because they’ve been using non recycled products for so long. But you know what? That’s kind of cynical in my mind. Just because a company has polluted the oceans, should we be criticizing them for trying to clean up the oceans? Shouldn’t we be giving them kudos for something like that? Certainly the stats show that that would work for them.
Danny Brown: Yeah and some of the folks on this, our Twitter feed are saying that. I think the problem is that the way that they’ve gone about it is a [inaudible 00:09:22] responsive tweet which is why I first came across it. A responsive tweet, let’s get to 20,000 retweets and we’ll build a 9th plastic center.
Danny Brown: So the centers are recycling all this ocean plastic et cetera, there’s eight so far that SC Johnson has built, kudos. And if you want to get to the ninth one, just retweet this message 20,000 times. And a lot of people are saying just wouldn’t be a bad approach to actually build a damn center and then retweet that as a victory.
Sam Fiorella: But this is, you know what I don’t know. I don’t think there’s anybody on this planet that is more cynical, and maybe even mean spirited as me. However, maybe and it could be because this is all on Twitter and Twitter is the toilet of the internet. But they’ve all ready built eight without any one of these campaigns. They’re trying to get people to rally behind the effort to do it. Is it a little bit self serving? Sure. But if a company’s gonna go through this kind of effort to develop these all ready eight of these centers and they want to build a ninth. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. This is a good way for them to drive some publicity. Compared to what here in Canada Bell does with Bell, let’s talk. They donate money, like one day every year like the third week of February, they have Bell let’s talk day. And the whole idea here is if you Tweet or message somebody with the hashtag Bell Let’s Talk, they will donate whatever it is, two cents, three cents, five cents for every one of those tweets. And at the end of the day they add up that number and they give away millions of dollars.
Sam Fiorella: They could just give away millions of dollars, but they haven’t done anything to raise awareness.
Danny Brown: Right.
Sam Fiorella: Right? This is what they’re doing is to help raise awareness as well as help sell product so I don’t know that I would be all that cynical.
Danny Brown: Yeah. Well I was going to say something else about Bell but I won’t.
Sam Fiorella: Don’t. Well you can, what?
Danny Brown: Well no, to your point the raising money, that’s great. But as far as actually being actively involved on the program site, kind of like SC Johnson is, I don’t think they are. Maybe they’ve seen stories where employees have been let go because they had mental health issues. And that’s always every year, that’s back and forefront, when the campaign comes out, yes but what about employee x, employee y, et cetera. So I think that’s where buying into the culture and influence behind the campaign, that ties into it.
Sam Fiorella: Well that’s really interesting because one of the other lessons that I’ve gleamed from some of these statistics that I’ve been reading the last week. It says that companies can’t afford to keep their corporate social responsibilities effort a secret. While consumers, and this is a direct reference from the study. While consumers indicate their ready to reward companies for social good efforts, they must hear about those commitments and the results, more than eight and 10, so 82% say that if a company makes social and environmental commitments they will hold it responsible for sharing those results.
Sam Fiorella: Right? What’s more consumers are realistic with 91% saying it’s okay for a company to not be perfect as long as they’re honest about the efforts. And they use Apple as an example, Apple’s a great demonstration of this. Sharing its environmental results, admitting its shortcomings when it doesn’t achieve them. But committing to a different path if they don’t hit it. And showing their journey to where they want to be. Going back to that whole being human thing on social media. So lesson learned for brands that are listening, if you’re going to get involved in this, it’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to screw up, it’s how you deal with it.
Sam Fiorella: Clearly the demand from consumers is there in terms of buying patterns and buying habits. But you have to show long term, you have to show this is part of our corporate culture, we’re not always going to be right, we’re not always going to be 100% perfect but we’re in this with you join us. That’s why I don’t necessarily hold a brand to account when they try and get the community to sort of participate in some capacity.
Danny Brown: Yeah [inaudible 00:13:36] SC Johnson’s point, I mean whoever’s running the social media account I think it’s a corporate responsibility division actually runs the account, they are sharing links to exactly how SC Johnson is involved in various ways. And getting rid of recyclable products and how to actually dispose of say the cling film stuff as you’re allowed to do so. They are inactive in showing how they’re involved over the years.
Sam Fiorella: And this is not something new, this is the other thing. We’re talking about it today because there’s, and I want to get to this next. There’s a shift from traditional corporate social responsibilities. Save the whales, clean lakes, that kind of stuff, to more on your nose or in your face, however you want to phrase it, sustainability and climate change. People are sort of tackling more politically sensitive topics right now because that’s the buzz, that’s what millennial and Gen Z are looking for. But if you, again going back to the stats 25 years of data show a consistent increase in a consumers willingness to purchase products that are associate with a social benefit. Tom’s, Tom’s shoes for example if you buy, what is it if you buy a pair of shoes from them they will donate a pair of shoes. I think there’s even a sock company out, I’ve been seeing commercials now for every pair of socks you buy they donate a pair of socks to a homeless shelter.
Sam Fiorella: Because apparently socks is a number one requested item from homeless shelters. Clean dry socks.
Danny Brown: Isn’t Stella Artois doing that as well now? They’re giving clean water to …
Sam Fiorella: Every time you buy a chalice. If you buy a Stella chalice then they will donate X amount of money to clean drinking water in impoverished countries. So I mean this is something that’s been going on for a long time. So clearly it works, yet there’s still a lot of brands that are hesitant to get behind it.
Sam Fiorella: The one lesson maybe that we want to talk about is companies must move beyond the one offs. To demonstrate a commitment to making a difference. I think that’s got to be it, it can’t just be like for example Tom’s shoes, buy a pair get a pair. The chalice with Stella Artois has been going on for quite a long time. It’s an ongoing promotion. It’s something that they always do.
Sam Fiorella: That study that I reference, 79% say they are more likely to believe a brand’s corporate social responsibilities commitments if they share efforts across multiple channel over a longer period of time. Opposed to a PR tactic or a stunt.
Danny Brown: Right.
Sam Fiorella: So I think, what’s an example of that? Somebody that’s … well we just gave a couple but how about Dove? We’ve mentioned the ma couple of times. They’re real beauty campaign, that’s been more than 10 years that one.
Danny Brown: 15 maybe?
Sam Fiorella: 15 that’s been going on. Right so they have again, ingrained that not only into our heads but they’ve proven that that’s part of their corporate ethos. And so it’s believable, it isn’t a PR stunt, because people are really again going back to being cynical, they’re going to try and pick it apart. So if you’re going to do it, make it a long term strategy. But the shift, that’s what I want to talk about a little bit more now. The shift that’s happening I’m noticing a lot of people are taking, are shifting away from taking on a I guess again clean water or saving the whales. That kind of stuff. And going heavily into environmental issues.
Sam Fiorella: And with all the climate change deniers, and as you’ve mentioned the beginning governments, trying to keep status quo for whatever reason, lobbyists really fighting hard, denying the science behind it. How risky is it for a brand to get involved in something like that, like what SC Johnson is trying to do?
Danny Brown: I guess it depends if you get any sort of kick backs from government. Any, substances [inaudible 00:17:27] and funds or whatever. And the government’s part of that and … if that goes against what the government wishes to happen, then that’s going to be an issue. I don’t know, I think because going back to the whole, the demographics of the brands you’re looking at, somebody needs to take a stand if it’s brands it’s brands.
Danny Brown: And that’s what we’re seeing.
Sam Fiorella: Well it’s a real shift I think in the way we’re marketing. This has been a bit of almost a theme that’s been happening over the last couple of podcasts. Even though slightly different topics they always seem to come back to consumer behaviors and what’s driving consumer behaviors. And whether this is driven by what’s happening in our political world right now, or this is just a social cultural thing that is leading the politics of extremism. Again going back to the statistics, consumers now expect businesses to be instrumental in addressing key societal hot button topics. So the top four issues, indicated by consumers job growth, racial equality, women’s rights, and environment. These are things that people are really interested in and they want brands to stand behind that. Which I found really really interesting.
Sam Fiorella: Here’s an example. Data storage company Iron Mountain. Iron Mountain, I used to know Iron Mountain way back in the day, they used to buy, get your boxes of paper and shred it. And I think that’s one of their sub companies. Or they would take those boxes, you know those paper boxes full of your files and they would store them off site because there’s only so much room. Now they’re a data collection site, so they’ve got a lot of electronics.
Sam Fiorella: But they burn a lot of energy in these buildings. And so what they’ve done is they’ve created a process where they will invest in solar wind and other renewable energies and actually attribute a percentage of that benefit of the environment to your business based on your share of the data space that you have within your warehouses. That can now be translated to carbon offsite emission taxes. So every client of theirs can now get involved and get some credit for what they’re doing based on the size of their data within the overall data facility.
Danny Brown: Because more data you need, or you’re storing the more …
Sam Fiorella: The more power that’s going to be required, the more bandwidth you need. It’s fantastic because normally what you would have to do, a company to get the carbon offsite emission tax, you would have to, or to avoid it, you would have to hire somebody to go ahead and map your blueprint and the impact on the environment to what you’re trying, how you’re trying to offset it. It’s a very expensive thing. So what’s really interesting about this is that it is completely open sores. So even a company like we work where our offices are, because of the relationship they could actually take that software and do it here with us. With what happens here is lights don’t go on until you walk into an area.
Sam Fiorella: The air conditioning changes whether there are people here or not. They do a lot of things to help reduce the carbon footprint of these buildings. That’s a great way to look at any type of tenant, vendor, or [inaudible 00:20:47] location facility could take advantage of that. So that’s I think a really good thing. But what’s the problem with consumers though? Here’s the thing. We know this because I like to think that we’re incredibly well educated, well at least I am. I almost said that with a straight face. I was gonna get away with that. So the consumers don’t buy into it for a lot, whether it’s people who are buying into the nay sayers and the lobbyists or whether people just don’t care.
Sam Fiorella: There’s still a large group of people I would think that don’t want to buy into it. How do we get consumers that aren’t millennials who all ready are looking for this? How does a brand get them to adapt this way of thinking to the point that they’re changing their consumer behaviors?
Danny Brown: I don’t know if they can. I mean if you look at the US and there weren’t people that want coal to be a viable energy. And they’re stuck in the mud, they want change they want coal to be a vital energy. You’ve got the oil across Canada et cetera. So I always think there’s going to be a generation and I might be stereotyping here [inaudible 00:21:54]
Danny Brown: But I always say there’s going to be a generation that just has to be ignored and another generation that’s coming through are the ones that are gonna create real change. That’s what’s happening with the young politicians coming through, the young social activists coming through. And they’re getting the brands and enabling the brands they have the courage to make these changes and take a stand. So I think possibly we just give up on trying to change these guys mind, and really put our hopes on the guys coming through.
Sam Fiorella: That’s interesting, maybe be careful there because I think we’re getting to the age or we are the age that we’re the demographic that’s going to get ignored.
Danny Brown: If we keep talking [inaudible 00:22:31]
Sam Fiorella: We have to be careful about that. You know what’s funny, there’s a group in New York, all of the, I forget the number but there’s a large number of the wall street Madison avenue ad agencies have all gotten together they’ve created a company or an association called potential energy.
Sam Fiorella: And what they’ve done, is they’ve created an effort, a think tank, almost a competition of sorts where they open it up to people to come up with ideas that brands could use to encourage customers, their customers or the general public to buy into living sustainably. So one of, they’re the first campaigns that came up with is called donate 60. I thought this was brilliant.
Sam Fiorella: And it’s a student lead Nationwide campaign that asks valedictorians and class leaders to donate 60 seconds of their commencement speech, you know if they’re the valedictorian, to the issue that matters most to their generation. Along with the actions on climate change, messaging on safety for gun violence, and equality across race, gender, and sexual orientation were all issues that these students felt compelled to talk about. So they went and they took a look. Interestingly enough those were the three things.
Sam Fiorella: Gun violence, environmental issues, climate change, and equality across race as I said gender and sexual orientation. More than 250 students heeded the calls, spanning 136 cities and 24 states. So I thought that was a brilliant way as to open it up. Of course that is the young audience, that’s still the gen z, that generation z as opposed to generation zed for the people on the other side of the boarder.
Danny Brown: Well no we speak generation zed when you say z you should be at the US.
Sam Fiorella: Well I’m in the US most of my day so it’s very possible. So I think this is where we have to maybe look at getting this, the older generation to buy in because while millennials have the greatest power over the purse today. The boomers still control a good hunk of that money. And they’re buying behaviors or maybe where they donate money or where they’re investing money into a company that does take on these corporate sustainability projects or not is gonna be key. So I think that’s gonna have to be on a not ignored audience and teaching them or embracing them, their attitudes their thoughts converting them is going to have to be one way that businesses can mitigate the risk, even if it’s not from a sales perspective maybe from an investment perspective and a brand PR perspective.
Sam Fiorella: Anyway that’s our time, we’re getting the bell. Thank you everybody for listening, but let’s leave them with one take away. What’s your one takeaway from this, I know we don’t have a lot of this planned but …
Danny Brown: Some big take aways. I think you mentioned earlier, and we spoke about this before, if you’re going to be into cause marketing then you have to A believe in the cause that you’re marketing, too or of if you’d like, make sure you’ve got your corporate culture really does truly reflect your corporate culture.
Sam Fiorella: Yeah I agree.
Danny Brown: A sound byte or PR byte to get sales in the short term.
Sam Fiorella: Yeah I think that’s a good takeaway from this conversation. I would also maybe want to, again thinking about how I would consult one of our clients, I would look at it as embrace the attitudes of your audience, but have them direct it. Instead of trying to force something down their throats, bring them into the picture, allow them, like you know this what was it, choose 60 or donate 60. You know allow them to speak because they’re going to speak their minds and then you can work with where your audience all ready is. Instead of dictating bring them into the conversation. That might be the take away or the recommendation that I would give.
Sam Fiorella: Anyway thank you everybody once again for listening or watching if you’re watching excuse me on YouTube. Next week we’re hoping to be back on our regular room, as you can tell we’re having some audio or video issues in this particular room, we got kicked out of our regular room. So hopefully that’ll be corrected the next time we’re here. And maybe Danny will finally get a proper haircut and make the picture that much better.
Danny Brown: Yep you know what, at least they don’t have like a two tone beard and mustache going on.
Sam Fiorella: I do have a two tone beard, this is why because I’m half boomer half millennial. That’s what this is.
Danny Brown: Just all old.
Sam Fiorella: I am old that is very true.
Danny Brown: Forgets to dye the bottom part as well. So yeah if you’ll join it, make sure you hit like or subscribe button on YouTube, whatever you prefer apart from the choices on podcasting. Make sure you subscribe and share with your friends.
Sam Fiorella: And go check out this Collingwood winter stout, it’s really really good if you like a stout beer.
Sam Fiorella: Bye everybody, cheers.
Danny Brown: Cheers guys, take care.
Outro: You’ve been listening to marketing on tap with Sam Fiorella and Danny Brown. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the next one. And please, feel free to leave a show review. That’s always worth a cheers.