Tag Archives: cause branding

Authenticity and Transparency in Celebrity Cause Alignment

Celebrities are amongst the savviest social responsibility activists.  And if celebrity is seen as a corporate enterprise, the rationale for cause alignment and CSR in Hollywood makes a lot of sense.  It can enhance reputation, drive sales, establish stakeholder loyalty and offer the opportunity to give back and make a difference in the world.  And scores of celebrities are seizing the opportunity to do just that; in fact, for some, like Bono, George Clooney, Angelina Jolie and Audrey Hepburn, their community work has become a critical part of their public persona.

But just as is the case in the corporate world, celebrities have to be careful about the authenticity of their philanthropic and community work.  We have written a great deal about the importance of transparency and genuineness when companies begin to develop strategic corporate social responsibility platforms, and when this piece is missing in the celebrity world, the results can be catastrophic.

Take, for instance, Lindsay Lohan.  In the past, Lohan has partnered with Angelwear in support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and she has been involved with Save the Children.    Today, Lohan just completed a jail sentence after she violated the terms of her probation in a 2007 drug case.  Clearly, she herself is troubled, and while her instincts about the charities that she supported may have been genuine, from a corporate PR point of view, the cause associations probably no longer pack the same punch.

On the heels of Al Gore’s green expose, An Inconvenient Truth, the former Vice President was heralded as a hypocrite, given his own unimpressive carbon footprint.  He responded with a redoubling of his commitment to carbon neutrality (along with several ‘explanations’ for his ridiculous rate of energy consumption and use of private jets).  Today this sense of disingenuousness still plagues Gore’s reputation.

Australian singer and actress Sophie Monk has been an outspoken PETA activist and has posed naked for the organization on a poster that urges people to “Spice up your life….go vegetarian”.  Several months later, Monk was photographed with a very non-vegetarian box of KFC in hand (picture below).  It is a bit of a leap to accept that her cause alignment was truly from the heart.

Sophie Monk Enjoying KFC

Which brings this discussion full circle, since it was only a few months ago that KFC’s partnership with Susan B. Komen was characterized as insincere.  Celebrities and companies should look to one another for best practice examples of authentic, sincere and genuine cause partnerships.

Advertisements

Baggin’ CSR

I am a shameless handbag addict. It’s a silly vice, really. But handbags make me happy. And considering their functionality, I think that my addiction is perfectly acceptable.

In addition to all of the CSR and sustainability blogs that I read every day, I also allow myself 20 minutes each morning to indulge in The Purse Blog. And the recent post about Botkier’s generous move to donate 50% of revenues from the sale of their Joy Satchel to charity got me thinking. Can the world of CSR learn something from handbag manufacturers?

Botkier’s move notwithstanding, handbag designers have made some bold CSR decisions as of late. Louis Vuitton, arguably the world’s most iconic handbag designer, announced a few weeks ago that it had signed a five year agreement with SOS Children’s Villages to create a program called “Partnership for Children’s Futures”.  The partnership will help children who are orphaned, abandoned or whose families are unable to care for them.

Though it’s a generous move, I can’t help but find the alignment a bit strange – coming from a luxury mega-brand that charges upwards of $2,000 for some of their more basic designs. (think orphaned children in remote villages juxtaposed against the LV patchwork tribute bag – that retailed for $45,000). Perhaps LV identified mothers as a priority market, and mothers naturally care about children. In that sense, it’s a smart partnership.

Beyonce with a $45,000 LV Tribute Patchwork Tote

Beyonce with a $45,000 LV Tribute Patchwork Tote

Handbag designer Mat & Nat offers a collection of design-centric, eco-friendly, vegan handbags and their entire business model is built on a very solid and creative foundation of social responsibility. The linings of their current designs are all made from recycled water bottles, for instance.

So I think that my handbag indulgence has taught me valuable lessons that can be transferred to the professional world of CSR.

Passion Points:

• Giving back is a universal notion that has become a baseline standard even in luxury markets

• Think about causes that will resonate with your customers and target markets

• In a best case scenario, establish a business model that aligns seamlessly with a CSR mandate

Cause Splash vs Cause Marketing

The not for profit world has been abuzz in the past few weeks about a cause marketing campaign gone bad. While bloggers and pundits (here’s a good  example) have been quick to lambaste the charity for its lack of judgment, the real issue is that the company opted for cause “splash” and not more strategic cause marketing/CSR decisions.

Here’s the background. Susan G. Komen For The Cure – this is the organization that pioneered the pink ribbon campaign in support of breast cancer research – entered into a cause marketing initiative with KFC. In a program called Buckets for the Cure, KFC is donating 50 cents for every “pink” bucket of chicken sold and is aiming to make the largest-ever single corporation donation (over $8.5 million) to breast cancer research. The problem is that one week after launching the campaign, KFC introduced a new product called the Double Down sandwich  – two pieces of fried chicken, bacon and cheese. The critics jumped on KFC for promoting an extremely unhealthy food product that can lead to obesity, which is a risk factor for breast cancer.

It is worth pointing out that despite furor in the blogosphere, to date the campaign has raised over $3.7 million and the website has inspired many people to share their breast cancer stories.

The real problem here is that KFC made a bad decision in its choice of cause marketing campaigns. The criticism of the campaign was foreseeable, particularly because KFC obviously knew when they were launching the Double Down sandwich. What’s even more striking is that the campaign doesn’t align with KFC’s business model. While it provides some temporary splash, in a year it will be forgotten because it really has nothing to do with what KFC does for a living. Contrast this campaign to other initiatives that are part of KFC’s CSR platform. The Colonel’s Scholars program provides scholarships enabling young people to go to college. This makes sense because KFC employs large numbers of high school students and the program aligns with founder Colonel Sanders’ legendary entrepreneurship; it focuses on “dreams and aspirations, and the perseverance to succeed.” KFC’s Animal Welfare Program is also well aligned providing expert oversight of the company’s practices and a supply chain component that includes farm audits.

Other examples of recently announced cause marketing campaigns illustrate the power of aligning with the corporate business model. Huggies (the diaper brand) has launched a program/site called HuggiesMomInspired.com through which it will provide venture capital to entrepreneurial moms.  Read more about it at http://bit.ly/d7QXty.  Barnum’s Animal Crackers recently launched a campaign that will see them raise funds to protect the endangered Asian tiger and raise awareness about endangered species.

Well-aligned cause marketing campaigns are more powerful because they become part of an integrated Corporate Social Responsibility platform. They provide greater opportunities for stakeholder engagement and are more enduring. Ultimately, they enhance the brand while allowing businesses to be good corporate citizens.

Passion Points

  • Cause marketing campaigns should align with your business model and should be just one element in an integrated and strategic CSR approach.
  • The most effective causes will relate to the products that you sell, the service that you provide, your articulated business philosophy or perhaps even personal philanthropic efforts of owners/executives.
  • Ensure that any upcoming marketing efforts won’t diminish the impact of prospective cause marketing campaigns.
  • Choose cause marketing campaigns that provide opportunities for employee engagement.