Please stop talking about causes!

28 novembre 2010

When I watched this video for the first time, I remember, I felt a bit surprised by its contradictoriness.

It performs an informal dialogue between Mitch Markson, Chief Creative Officer and founder of Edelman Goodpurpose, and Carol Cone, EVP and Managing Director Edelman Brand & Corporate Citizenship, to present the Edelman report Good Purpose 2010 (a  “global research that explores consumer attitudes around social purpose, including […] their expectations of brands and corporation“).

The report is not even strictly about CSR, but, as we’ll see, it’s closer to Cause Related Marketing.
So why on earth I’m feeling the need to talk about it?

Because in a certain way they “want” me to talk about it…CSR here is slightly latent.
Let’s start from the beginning…

The first information Mitch Markson and Carol Cone give it’s:

86% [of more than 7000 adults in 13 countries] of global consumers believe that business needs to place at least equal weight on society’s interests as on business’ interests

That’s impressive” he says.
That’s extraordinary” she says simultaneously, and carrying on “This is changing the way the business has to go to market“.

Let me suggest an interpretation of this statement.
Consumers are showing a new sensitiveness, and it’s huge, that is (NOT) the firm has to really “place at least equal weight on society’s interests as on business’ interests” the way the report suggests.
As a matter of fact , on one hand it doesn’t make sense, they should be the same thing, on the other, organizations need ROI or conversions, and social causes (the real issue of the report) are and remain separated from the long term (remember this) strategic business objectives.
Sure you can integrate good causes in your business:

64% believe it is no longer enough for corporations to give money; they must integrate good causes into their everyday business

but the report highlights also data like:

61% have a better opinion of corporations that integrate good causes into business, regardless of why they do so

I think we’re definitely missing the point.
Consumers’ new sensitiveness is underlining new business areas, the future or the natural evolution of THE business, and the best way Mitch Markson (so the report) reckon we should exploit this is to build a market of and for causes (listen to Markson when he says “There is no one killer cause…“): ephemeral, uncoordinated at a global level, ineffective on those issues Carol Cone refers to in the last contradictory part of the video…

Purpose [they define it the 5th P of marketing, as regards once more to causes] […] has to be authentic and is to be long term and it’s a lot about execution […] who you’re partnering with […] Because this isn’t about winning on a day, it’s about a journey […] the social issues […] can’t be solved!

It is contradictory from a conceptual point of view: if having a purpose is tied to a journey, how could you support such a fragmentation, nothing having a real goal in the “long term” and somewhat widely impactless.

Are you really affirming that causes, those amount of causes you can even choose to join (they cannot be solved so is not a real hard responsibility), might be the 5th P of marketing (the purpose), the revolution of the market as we knew it?

Yeah from the cause related marketing point of view is quite right…but you’re speaking about “mutual social responsibility“, that one you co-create with your customers or in general stakeholders, and “sustainable value“.

You, the reader, may ask, how they think it is possible?

Carol Cone explains that you as a company have just to introspectively reflect upon your early times and then delve in the giant market of causes looking for something akin.

Unfortunately causes are NOT sustainable if far from the core business and ineffective and expensive if integrated (they cannot be solved).
As Kellie A. McElhaney asserts in her book, speaking about non-matched CSR and financial goals: “As soon as you have a down quarter, your CSR resources [here your cause or causes] will be the first to be cut.”.

So finally, if we wanna speak about a journey and long term goals or sustainable value, a “cause market” could never be a good start, and stop talking about causes!
If not…yeah it will be the marketing’s heaven… (bit “greenwashy” too … don’t ya think?)…

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