As Home Depot CEO Bob Bardelli put it, “Our duty as individual citizens and as corporations isn’t to simply wait for government to do everything for us, but to recognize government’s limitations and our own strengths, and pitch in to offer what we do best to help our fellow citizens.”
In addition to helping people, a little consumer preference and enhanced reputation never hurts. Consumers are taking note, especially the Millennials, of whom 74 percent are more likely to pay attention to a company’s message when they know a company has a deep commitment to a cause.
Some companies fulfill the social cause “requirement” with short-term campaigns or holiday promotions while others tie causes deeply to their business models. When done well, this cause branding can marry a brand with its good works in consumers’ minds.
Another company hoping to get on that list is Levi’s with “We Are All Workers”. This newest iteration of the “Go Forth” campaign focuses on the hard-working spirit of the town of Braddock, PA, which is suffering from steady years of economic hardship. In addition to celebrating the pioneer spirit of several of the town’s residents by employing them as models in their campaign, Levi’s is donating more than $1 million to renovate Braddock’s community center and boost local farming.
In a world that looks for short-term gains, how committed long-term are brands to the causes they champion when it no longer pays the short-term dividends? Dove has stood by their Campaign for Real Beauty even though they have evolved their advertising communications. Benetton shocked the world in the 80s with their controversial advertising campaigns but despite accusations of being exploitative, they have been raising awareness for social issues through COLORS magazine since 1991. And Levi’s themselves have remained committed to fighting HIV/AIDS since 1982 when they became one of the first companies to publically the address the issue.
Will Levi’s leave Braddock when it no longer engages people in the same way? Or will they have the staying power required to turn a great idea into a meaningful long-term relationship?
What happens when brands don’t stay committed to these causes? Will consumers quietly stop buying their products or will they create social tirades against the brand? Or maybe they’ll just become more interested in the next brand to publicize their support for a cause.