Did you ever notice that the world’s biggest brands are always seen in various social avatars, whether through a subtle social message in promotional campaigns or in real-life events? Well, boasting the socially responsible side of a business brand is the new way of emotionally connecting with the customers. We all know what that leads to. Yes, emotional connection with the target audience means a bigger and better brand image that further oils the sales machine.
This corporate social responsibility (CSR) is now a more apt and relevant marketing channel for big brands. This social face of the business helps brands outreaching their audience quickly and in more innovative and creative ways. Instead of limiting your brand marketing with the known product fetishes and status symbols, you can just make your audience feel emotionally closer by weaving the brand message with a context of the common good.
What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?
There is a lot of confusion about corporate social responsibility (CSR). Some understand it as rich business tycoon’s charity, some views it as strategic philanthropy to get better business mileage and there are still others who consider this as the community involvement of a business brand for long term business goals. While each of these perceptions is partially true, all of them fail to put CSR in proper perspective. It would be appropriate to define CSR as the social responsibility shared by a business brand in order to glorify the brand image by connecting the audience emotionally.
As of now, CSR has been seen to encompass five key areas of social responsibilities, as mentioned below.
- Employee welfare
- Financial performance
- Corporate governance
How Can the Businesses Integrate CSR with Marketing?
The commitment to the common good as socially responsible businesses needs monetary involvement or active participation in various projects. Naturally, this cannot happen without a long-term business interest. This interest may not be profitability but can extend to benefits such as improving brand awareness, outreaching wider audience, etc.
Let us explain here some of the key ways to integrate CSR with marketing.
CSR integrated with the business model
This is the most organic approach to incorporate CSR within a business process. As per this approach the business model, the branding and the CSR all remain in perfect sync without contradicting the interest of one another.
When a company strictly follows environmental principles, uses in its workplace only biodegradable products and make laboratories and production facilities working to advance the cause of environmental protection, organically it is practising CSR through its business model. Same organic social responsibility can be practised for employee welfare and community development while maintaining a focus on business growth.
CSR Practiced in Specific Ways
This approach to practice CSR is common among many business brands. Instead of organically putting the social commitments and responsibility into the core business value of the brand, a company can rather take a particular way to boast of its social responsibility. For such selective CSR practices, it can make the partnership or make a different sub-brand modelled after this social commitment.
This approach can only help a business gain branding benefits or awareness when it chooses the specific measures based upon well-grounded audience research. This is considered to be a more practical approach for brands doing business in a highly competitive market where organic CSR can lead to a backlash from investors or customers.
CSR as Internal Principle
This approach, instead of showcasing the social commitment of the brand actually makes it invisible and silently adopted in internal principles. Often this approach is used by brands to build strong employee relations and make better and happy workplace environments. As per this approach, the messages of the company pertaining to CSR never get included in corporate or public communication for the brand.
CSR through Works of Shared Value
Some corporations have a particular focus on public health or art and culture or the public education system. With the corporate vision to intertwine the brand name with a highly essential and socially viable project, the public image of the brand is glorified for long term business benefits. Such CSR practices to create shared value for the common good while rejuvenating the brand image have been most effective for many leading brands.
Some essential tips for utilising CSR
Let us offer here some essential tips to include CSR into your marketing strategy and make it effective for branding in the long run.
- Build a strong follower base for your brand across multiple channels including web, social media, outdoor and print ads and in-store marketing. Deliver a consistent, empathetic and emotionally connecting brand message based upon your core commitment and business niche.
- Give extra importance to design and the overall look and feel of all the brand interfaces and marketing content. Your CSR should carry the message directly to the audience in an instantly recognisable and audible way without visual clutter or distractions of any sort.
- When integrating CSR with your campaigns or business models give strong emphasis on getting feedback and audience research. Do extensive market research among your target audience and accordingly build your CSR message or campaigns.
- Engage your employees for brainstorming to come with a lot of innovative and creative ideas that can help your brand take the right direction in respect to appearing as a socially committed brand while ensuring consistent business growth.
Instead of jumping into a CSR drive all of a sudden based on a single idea, do a lot of brainstorming and audience research. Listen to the audience and engage with them as much as possible across all channels and their feedback will help you perfect your CSR strategy and content. For perfectly integrating CSR into your business model, you always need to learn as you go.
Juned Ghanchi is a co-founder and CMO of IndianAppDevelopers, a software company which offers to hire mobile app developers for top-notch Android and iOS mobile applications. He crafts super-smart marketing strategies to generate leads and enhance company branding.