Cross-posted from http://thinkseedodifferently.blogspot.com/
I have often wondered if it would ever be possible to develop “social good” campaigns for companies, brands and issues in a profitable way–one that provided real benefit for all parties, the agency, the company, and the stakeholder. This question is exasperated by the fact that business is experiencing its highest profits ever on a regular basis, while consumer trust in business remains painfully low. I now believe there are three emerging forces in marketing that will profoundly change the way we do business, market products, brands and issues. They are “Shared Value”, “Sharing Economy”, and “Purpose-Driven Marketing.” In two parts–I want to share some observations on how these forces can potentially make “doing good” profitable for agency, consumer and marketer alike.
For years, I’ve sought out opportunities to give back for the many blessings I’ve had in my life through the skills I have. While managing SpikeDDB, made campaigns for the Ad Council, Magic Johnson Foundation and other non-profits. Spike Lee, Desmond Hall (our ECD and now CCO at GlobalHue) and I, developed PSAs to create awareness about Stroke, HIV/Aids and other issues–but we often did it “pro-bono” on our own time as non-billable work. We were doing our own version of CSR (corporate social responsibility) in line with Spike’s socio-political mission to improve and diversify Madison Ave. Yet, the challenge of having to do this work for free or at-cost has always nagged me–why wasn’t it possible to do social marketing, to benefit business and society simultaneously, in a profitable way? Why weren’t advertisers willing to pay to “do good?” What was missing from the value equation?
Years later at the 201o Cannes Advertising Festival I was witness to the launch of a powerful marketing platform, marketing with meaning or “purpose-driven marketing” in Jim Stengel and Bob Gilbreath’s presentation “The Burning Question.” Of course, having worked with P&G brands, I was familiar with P&G GMO Marc Pritchard’s deeply held belief that marketing should serve people, and the resulting approach that every brand have a purpose.
The premise is simple–make marketing useful by making it meaningful, make your products have a unique purpose in improving lives to lead to the creation of economic AND social value. At Cannes, I was surprised to learn of the deep involvement of other market leaders in the same philosophy; Kraft, AT&T, Samsung, PepsiCo to name just a few. There was a movement afoot in the halls of major advertisers, and if it was spin–well there seemed to be a lot of smart people betting their careers on bringing social good together with business. I realized that if companies were finally willing give their products a purpose larger than profit, and basically embed CSR into the value chain, then advertising would have to change too.
The Sharing Economy
Fast forward to 2011, SXSWi to another presentation–this one on “the New Sharing Economy” where sharing goods and services instead of out-right purchasing them, was discussed as an emerging alternative to traditional consumption models. This new economy of sharing is largely driven by new social technologies, the recession and a crisis in confidence in companies to provide efficient, useful products that benefit more than their bottom-line. New companies from social entrepreneurs like Kickstarter, Kiva and Zipcar that combine social marketing, social media and technology, have shown that sharing can be a basis for industry, and one that’s profitable.
The panel discussed the results of a major study on sharing by Shareable.Net and Latitude Research, that concluded “sharing online is a strong indicator for sharing offline.” If the new behaviors of social media online are an indicator that consumers are becoming open to new ways of engagement with products, brands and even issues–could campaigns that “do good” move from “push-messaging” (public service announcements) to highly-involved programs where consumers “share” actions with brands for the benefit of all? Did this mean we need to rethink the role of cause-marketing altogether–one that derives value and profit?
Social entrepreneurs like Lisa Gansky (Ofoto founder) are exploring the possibilities for the sharing economy and you can find case studies on KickStarter and Groupon in her book Mesh, The Future of Business is Sharing. Gansky launched a directory for sharing and companies that want to share products, goods and services can join for free. From the website, “The Mesh has emerged as the best new creative engine for getting more of what we want, exactly when we want it, at less cost to ourselves and the planet.”
Michael Porter, the Harvard professor, marketing guru and inventor of “big idea business strategy” refers to the opportunity as creating “Shared Value.” He has concluded that business and society have entered into a zero-sum relationship and the goal of business should now be to get back to a win-win solution for both.
Porter argues that the “external factors” (rampant unemployment, escalating climate-change and deepening poverty and hunger) are having an impact on business and thus the disconnect between capitalism and society has grown ever wider. This has lead to political leaders and society at large to having a growing distrust of business and therefore behavior change is needed–a radical think on how businesses create value. He asks–how can we create products that were good for the customer using the same expertise we applied to get them to consume more in the past? This model clearly goes beyond CSR and philanthropy and into the heart of the value chain requiring a reevaluation of how businesses create and market products. This approach broadens businesses goals from narrow needs to broader “human” needs–and can lead to new markets, new needs where business can find profit.
Purpose-driven marketing, the sharing economy, shared value–there seems to be an emerging triangulation of forces, pointing toward a fundamental shift in free-market capitalism. Its clear already that companies see being purpose-driven as a business strategy that will improve their bottom-line or frankly, the world’s biggest marketers wouldn’t be doing it. Rest assured, they’ve done the math. To grow, they must grow new markets. To thrive, their products must provide a benefit to that new market, even protect society. Nestle has recently made creatingshared value” a part of their mission. Every P&G brand has a purpose now. For example, PUR’s purpose comes to life in work on safe-drinking water. At Campbells, the new Nourish soup was developed to be a shelf-stable nutritional food-aid to help tackle hunger issues. For sharing technology-based companies, the larger benefit to society is already part of their mission and operating philosophies. Robin Chase, co-founder of Zipcar has stated her real goal is to remove cars from the road, reducing CO2 production and creating more sustainable and livable cities (a clear benefit to society). Clearly, this should be having a profound change on the advertising and PR industry.
And so, where are the agencies of the future that will position themselves to “do good” for marketers, for society, in a profitable way? Where are the opportunists developing new advertising and PR agency models? What do we as marketers have to change in order to be at the forefront of these powerful forces?
Well, its early days, but several new kinds of marketing agencies and media companies have emerged recently–they are founded by filmmakers, social entrepreneurs, veteran agency execs, and content developers. They are blurring the boundaries of advertising, public relations, non-profit, start-up and software company.
Stay tuned for Part II where I will share examples of new agency models and examples of campaigns that sit at the intersection of Shared Value, the Sharing Economy, and Purpose-Driven Marketing.