CSR As Branded Content

Marketing green logo2 According to this Marketing: Green post, CSR must be more than a commitment by organizations to take responsibility for the impact of the businesses; it should be branded content that is easily accessed and understood by consumers.  This includes optimizing a company's initiatives for search, being transparent and developing a more defined link between branding and sustainability.

Posted Nov. 4, 2009
By Diana Verde Nieto, MediaPost, Marketing: Green

Today's communications reality consists of
multiple media channels, new technologies and consumers who not only
have a short attention span but are increasingly choosing when, where
and how to consume media. In the past, a company was in control of its
own image, but consumers now have "access all areas" thanks to the
proliferation of digital communication.

Traditional marketing is
simply no longer sufficient in connecting with consumers. This new
reality demands a new approach to engaging them, which is where CSR as
branded content comes in.

CSR is a commitment by organizations to take responsibility for the impact of their business on the environment and society.

CSR as branded content combines all the different aspects of your
brand, not only your marketing campaigns but also your CSR reports,
including environmental targets and strategies, supply chain activities
and employee engagement all translated into a compelling story told in
a language that is accessible to consumers.

This content
creates an emotional connection with consumers and builds connections
between the brand, its CSR initiatives and the viewers. By producing
these new consumer experiences brands gain significant interest. When
brands focus on what is important to consumers, they volunteer their
time and attention.

Events that encompass CSR are an example.
Innocent Smoothies, a brand underpinned by their overall approach to
sustainability, host an annual festival in London, the Innocent Village
Fete. The event is a physical representation of what the brand believes
in: community, sustainability, healthy living and, of course, fun.

The annual event has helped to turn customers into supporters by
hosting memorable brand experiences that aim to make people's lives
better, while raising money for a good cause. It allows Innocent to
promote its new smoothie flavors to attendees, while giving them the
opportunity to wander around the farmers' market, visit charity stalls
and enjoy the music.

Consumers have a growing interest in
green products and services, but a limited understanding about what
these are. Research shows that people are more likely to research
product choices and compare features before making purchasing decisions
and turn to online search tools when they do so.

For example
in a survey by Prospectiv in 2007, 70% of consumers in the US said they
use the Internet to research everyday grocery products. For marketers,
this means establishing a broad presence in search results across both
the general and green vertical search engines in order to intercept
consumers when they actively seek category, product or brand-specific
information across a range of green issues.

Many organizations
are concerned with optimizing search from a brand perspective but not
from a brand reputation perspective. A quick search on Google about
Nike's ethics reveals the majority of the results are not created or
commented on by the company itself, not because they are have poor CSR
policies and activities but because the good work that they are doing
in this area has yet to be optimized.

When brand information
is in the public domain, embedding sustainability will encourage
positive comments and ultimately have a positive affect on the brand,
because the company is being transparent about where it is in its
journey. It is therefore crucial that external communications and
internal practices become aligned.

You can't stop people
talking about you but you can show a willingness to be honest and open.
This means joining the dots between brand communications and corporate
responsibility and sustainability initiatives, because in the eyes of
consumers, there is no difference.

In our experience, CSR
provides a goldmine of stories that can form the basis of branded
content. However, companies are often doing good work behind the scenes
through CSR initiatives that brand marketers don't even know about. At
the same time, these brand teams are looking for meaningful stories to
create engaging messages and capture their consumers' attention.
Departments need to work more closely together to facilitate better
communication and information sharing.

Linking branding and
sustainability should create a virtuous circle, by communicating the
good that your company is doing, the success that this brings will
justify an ever increasing focus on continually improving your
sustainability policies and activities. If nobody knows what kind of
company you are, then the incentive to progress and change associations
is not there.

Businesses must make the relationships between
the CSR team, marketing team and advertising agency seamless in order
to bring their sustainability stories to the forefront of branded
content. Action needs to be taken now so that organizations avoid being
left behind their competitors, using CSR in branded content presents an
opportunity to drive innovation and present sustainability stories to
consumers in a relevant and engaging way.

The brands of the future will be the ones that integrate sustainability into their vision and communicate this effectively.

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