More brands are waking up to their social responsibility and doing good work through cause marketing campaigns. Yet too many still go about it the wrong way. I mean 'wrong' in two senses. Firstly, they are marketing ineffectively, and secondly, as a consequence their positive social impact is not maximized.
As we approach each of the great social challenges of our time we must acknowledge that old thinking will not provide the new solutions we need. These solutions will be uncomfortable, hard to sell and risky to execute. But the cost of not doing so is even greater.
Any institution faces two basic choices if they hope to spark new ideas. One is to leverage the brains trust within their organization by creating a special event dedicated to new thinking. The other is to look outside themselves to stimulate solutions.
There is a growing awareness among brands that in order to participate in conversations that are taking place across social networks, they must join these discussions on the basis of something that is meaningful to their customers.
Not since the digital revolution in the early '90s has technology placed such a comprehensive burden on business, employees and individuals to reinvent their business plans, services and products, and themselves to keep pace with the changing marketplace.
Concerned consumers are realizing that they can use social media to organize themselves around shared values to start effective movements. Social media gives them a sounding board to share ideas, as well as a means to punish irresponsible corporate behaviors.
It is time for corporate America to become 'the third pillar' of social change in our society, complementing the first two pillars of government and philanthropy. We need the entire private sector to begin committing itself not just to making profits, but to fulfilling higher and larger purposes by contributing to building a better world.
As a function of the easy access to information provided by the Internet, and the ease with which it can be shared thanks to social media, consumers are now better informed as to the behavior of brands and the multiple global crises we face.
In fact, I believe the first companies that make an effort to develop an authentic, transparent, and meaningful social contract with their fans and customers will turn out to be the ones that are the most successful in the future. While brands that refuse to make the effort will lose stature and customer loyalty.
When a positive exchange between a brand and customers becomes quantifiable metrics, it encourages brand to provide better service, customer service to do a better job, and consumers to actively show their gratitude.
Many corporate leaders and employees have the right intentions, but it can be overwhelming when you consider how everything is affected from leadership styles, to organizational structure, to employee engagement, to customer service an marketplace.
The most impactful way consumers can assert their power is to become mindful shoppers, giving their dollars only to socially responsible companies. In today's world of social media and smart phones, this is easy to do.
Corporate executives need to re-frame their responsibilities to include the interests of all the stakeholders in society at large; not just shareholders, but also employees, the citizens of our communities, and those who care about the environment.
There are many individuals, companies and even countries operating in what I call a 'me first' mentality, which is effectively a purely competitive approach to life, treating the planet as if it has infinite resources and pitting one country against another for supremacy.
Often motivated by a desire to maintain the existing status quo, sloth almost cost the U.S. its auto industry, as it refused for decades to build fuel-efficient cars to compete with Japanese, Korean and European imports.
Consumers now have a voice. And the fact that consumers can be creators, producers and distributors means they can push back against brands to punish them for their socially irresponsible behavior or reward them for their responsible behavior.
The United States is at a critical juncture in time. Our government is riddled with historic debt, and the limited resources of philanthropic and non-profit efforts cannot meet the scale of social challenges we face with necessary force.
There is an overwhelming amount of information available to us all on the web each day, not to mention what is shared with us by our family, friends, fans, and followers. This necessitates the need to filter through all that information and to decide for ourselves where to put our attention.
Brands are faced with the daily challenge of massively scaling their outreach in order to build personal relationships. While this may seem like a contradiction in terms, it becomes much more possible when brands shift from push to pull dynamics in their marketing.
Gluttony might be innocuous were it not for the fact that gluttons tend to disregard whether their self-serving behaviors harm anyone else. We don't need to look far and wide to find examples of gluttonous behavior, as they are numerous throughout the history of capitalism.
Greed has increasingly become a virtue among Wall Street bankers and corporate CEOs in the U.S. Nowhere else in the world do CEOs insist on receiving compensation as high compared to what their employees earn.
How much do you as a consumer value a positive experience with a brand or its customer service department? How willing are you to share that with your friends? How inclined are you to let that person know that you're interaction with them was positive?
If a brand genuinely wants to make a social contribution, it should start with who they are, not what they do. For only when a brand has defined itself and its core values can it identify causes or social responsibility initiatives that are in alignment with its authentic brand story.
When people align around shared political, social, economic or environmental values, and take collective action, thinking and behavior that compromises the lives of millions of people around the world can truly change.
Corporations often partner with government after natural disasters, as many companies did in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. As a rule, however, long-term civic/corporate partnerships are still rare .But this need not remain the status quo, as many opportunities are available for such partnerships.
With the never-ending stream of new social technologies, apps and platforms rolling out every day, its easy to get lost in the minutiae of social media. Yet for there to be effective change, especially within large, top-down, hierarchical institutions, a company must have an over-arching understanding of the new role it has to play.
When thinking through who to bring together to generate new ideas, it is more effective to combine specialists from very different and unrelated disciplines rather than a variety of people with different skills sets in the same field.
Move your personal investments and retirement funds to socially responsible investment (SRI) funds that support only those corporations that uphold higher standards of behavior. Returns on SRI funds are usually equal to, if not better than, many of the well-known traditional mutual funds.
We need to develop and disseminate an entirely new paradigm and practice of collaboration that supersedes the traditional silos that have divided governments, philanthropies and private enterprises for decades and replace it with networks of partnerships working together to create a globally prosperous society.
Today's consumers are eager to become loyal fans of companies that respect purposeful capitalism. They are not opposed to companies making a profit; indeed, they may even be investors in these companies - but at the core, they want more empathic, enlightened corporations that seek a balance between profit and purpose.