I said I knew this was hard because of the big silos in most companies that divide marketing and CSR, the competition for campaign dollars and other symptoms of territoriality. There is also the barrier of the legacy positions so many companies have in philanthropic activities that they are too nice to drop. They end up spreading the peanut butter too thin.
I believe that the most powerful community investment brands are not just focused and strategic but cannot be distinguished from the corporate brand – think of IBM and Smarter Planet, Air Miles for Social Change, Home Depot and Building Strong Communities, CISCO Transforming Lives Through Technology and Johnson & Johnson and A Legacy of Caring. These are ideas that (as Michael Porter called for in Creating Shared Value) unify the core business and social impact under one umbrella. Yes, it can be done. And it must be done to get the full pop out of the dollars that are invested and the impact they have.
I’ve see four stages of evolution toward this ultimate, unified state:
- Cheque Writers who weigh each ask one-at-a-time. A lot of professional services and B2B enterprises operate this way so they can support the causes of their clients. A lot of lost leverage here.
- Strategic Programmers who focus on select priorities, but it’s hard to see the link to the core value proposition of the enterprise. I’d put most of the banks and telecoms in this group.
- Smart Signatures have narrowed in on causes that connect well with their core business – Like SunLife supporting health and wealth, Campbell’s and Help Hunger Disappear and Hasbro’s GenerationOn.
- Brand Unifiers have brought core business and social impact together in single ideas. On top of the ones mentioned above I’d add Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart, Glaxo Smith Kline and Do More, Feel Better, Live Longer.
The toughest question of the day came from one participant who asked quite rightly, what do you do if you cannot get the organization to agree to integrate the brands? I have this advice:
- Show the marketing and sales organizations the value of integrating the commercial and social brands using case studies and data from leading global examples
- Work directly with marketing and sales to find cross-over synergies between commercial and social programs and campaigns at a grass-roots level to begin to build unity and synergy
- Go back to the core values that drive the enterprise brand and check in with your CI programs to see if they are built on the same foundation. That at least is a start and will help you select (and de-select programs) based on where the synergy is.
- Reflect on what that unified brand could be so you can show the way to others inside your organization. Where is the intersection between your business and social impact?