Monday, August 18, 2008

Case Study: Corporate Social Marketing

Today's case study focuses not on a single company's specific direct marketing success, but instead it explores the trend of businesses leveraging their brands and using social media to shout to the world how much they care, and (the kind part of me says) to get consumers more involved in global concerns such as renewable energy, climate change and poverty.

See this article from the San Francisco Chronicle: Companies tout their social consciences online.

The article provides a range of examples of companies using outlets such as YouTube to share their work on a variety of causes. Companies sited include the usual suspects: Starbucks and Nike, and also includes Timberland and Whole Foods. All of these firms are raising some pretty significant awareness both for their chosen causes, AND for their companies.

Of course, the companies are motivated by more than altruism.

For Timberland, the YouTube exposure is a marketing instrument, Morey-Reuner (Timberland's Senior Manager of Value Marketing) said.

And it reaches the target groups of the young and keen to consume. The Timberland Earthkeeper spot, for example, has been watched by nearly 107,000 viewers since it was posted in April. The Nike clip has drawn more than 125,000 viewers since May.

"Companies have an interest to be perceived as socially responsible, but they want to sell their products at the same time," said David Stewart, dean of the School of Business at UC Riverside. "YouTube is a new vehicle, and companies are offering these types of media. Therefore, the spots are not completely altruistic. There's an element of both selling and doing good."

Here are specific examples referenced in the article:

I have mixed feelings about this type of promotional activity. I guess consumers (especially young ones) are savvy (and cynical) enough to understand that firms involved have an ulterior motive. And, I guess, if the cause is a good one, then any support is a good thing, right?

But, somehow this type of altruism continues to ring a tad false to me.

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