Today, brand purpose has become so ubiquitous that complacent companies are falling behind their purpose-driven competitors from a consumer standpoint. In parallel with the shifting demands of the public, investors and other stakeholders — who expect brands to stand for a cause that’s bigger than their products or offerings — more companies are positioning themselves as a force for social good in their marketing campaigns. It’s a smart decision, considering 78% of Americans believe that companies need to positively impact society, not just make financial profits, according to a recent Cone/Porter Novelli study.
A company that leverages its brand to support social activism not only creates a more meaningful dialogue with its audience, but it can also help the company manage risk, identify new business opportunities and boost employee morale. That said, gone are the days when marketers could simply follow the latest social impact trend or design campaigns that tugged at the heart but didn’t lead to action and change. In fact, these campaigns are bound to backfire if they don’t come from a place of integrity and lead to real impact.
To create a campaign that is truly authentic, persuasive and successful, brands should use a data-driven approach to ensure the featured social impact supports their business goals and meets their customers’ expectations. Here’s how companies can implement a data-driven strategy to improve a purpose-driven marketing campaign:
Outline The Opportunity And Identify Your Impact
There are countless ways for brands to generate a significant social impact that aligns with their core business objectives. Remember, the most obvious program isn’t necessarily the most compelling. For instance, a company in the food industry does not need to solely focus on the fight against global hunger. Take Domino’s Paving for Pizza campaign, a pothole-paving public relations campaign aimed at fixing crumbling infrastructure in neighborhoods across the United States — all for the sake of better pizza delivery.
It is imperative for brands to assess whether they have the license to advocate for an issue. Start by identifying a cause that is related to your business, but avoid making the mistake of selecting a cause for its sensational appeal. To help guide this decision making process, brands need to ask the following questions:
• What is the problem our company is designed to solve, and what are the internal and external factors that affect our ability to solve that problem?
• Where does the company’s pain point intersect with the needs of the community?
After answering the questions above, companies can leverage data on their environmental, social and governance (ESG) scores and other third-party evaluations to identify where they have the most room for improvement. Sentiment analysis from employees, customers and vendors can also help guide the company’s decision. This internal and external data will improve your focus by eliminating causes that don’t align with your core business.
Select the Right Impact Partner
Once a company has identified the cause area of interest, the next step is to identify the right nonprofit partner. When it comes to selecting a nonprofit partner, a data-driven approach can be helpful here, too. Consider specific variables by asking:
• Do the nonprofit’s programs address issues that are relevant to us as a business, and is there a clear connection to the outcomes that are accomplished?
• What data do they track in each of their programs, and what variables do they use to show their impact?
In addition to vetting their published datasets, go see them in action and talk to their beneficiaries to understand if a partnership aligns with both party’s goals and interests.
Peter Drucker was absolutely right when he said, “What gets measured gets managed.” Luckily, many nonprofits are capturing and collecting data to enhance the effectiveness of their programs, better allocate their resources and track the progress of their campaigns and are eager to share this data with their partners and supporters.
Don’t Just Tell Consumers, Show Them
The profit-with-purpose model is attractive, but it needs tangible results to really carry weight with consumers. Just as investors expect to see how their capital is being spent, consumers are eager to know the results of a social impact program that is funded and promoted by a brand. Don’t just tell the public that the company cares or supports a particular cause or nonprofit, show them with real data and impact.
Beyond financial commitments, companies should clearly communicate the direct impact they are making in a community. The most compelling campaigns highlight real impact, whether it’s the number of trees planted within a community, the number of people who received job training and secured a new job or how funding is used to create new infrastructures, such as educational facilities or community centers. This form of data not only allows brands to show their immediate impact, but it can also help them demonstrate their ongoing commitment to a cause over time, which in turn, increases their credibility and reputation with consumers.
Companies that want to provide meaningful metrics to consumers should engage their nonprofit partner as social impact advisors. The best impact metrics are often provided by the nonprofits themselves. Partnerships with data-oriented nonprofits not only open up the opportunity for businesses to establish “win-win” partnerships with the nonprofit world, but they also provide your consumers with meaningful metrics that prove the brand’s commitment to a given cause.
As more and more brands rush to implement social impact campaigns, those that use data-driven approaches can create more authentic campaigns, establish a more powerful connection to their audience and reap a greater return on their marketing investments.