Jan 28, 2009

Cause Marketing and Social Responsibility—Kellogg Marketing Conference

Rajan Dev's picture
Rajan Dev

It was very cold in Chicago last weekend (temperatures in the single-digits), but the reception at the Kellogg Marketing Conference—Consumer 2.0 was extremely warm!

I had been invited to participate on a panel entitled, "When Your Customer's Cause Becomes Your Own." The panel was moderated by Keecia Broy (DonorsChoose.org) with Rick Ely (Johnson & Johnson), Kathy Leech (BP), Stephanie Wolcott (Kellogg Innovation Network Global) and me (Hot Studio) participating on the panel.

In my introduction, I spoke about how Cause Marketing was central to Hot Studio's culture and value proposition to employees, which manifests in higher employee morale and lower employee turnover than typical professional services. The brands of the community organizations that we work for benefit from great design and become our biggest evangelists. Our corporate client see that we are committed to this type of thinking and have entrusted us with high-profile efforts (Gap, Nike). During the session, we discussed some of the Hot Studio cases and client effort (presentation ), Kathy's experience at BP (where they have surfaced the core brand-proposition of being a research-driven company), Rick's experience with Aveeno (where they've developed strong metrics that underscore the value of cause marketing), Stephanie's experience at Tyco and Keecia's experience at DonorsChoose.org.

During the course of the conversation, Kathy suggested a framework, which other members of the panel built upon for assessing whether cause marketing might be appropriate for a brand or product. The key components were:

  1. Brand Alignment
  2. Valued by the Community
  3. Does it excite employees?
  4. Longevity
  5. Transparency and Progress

Given tightly controlled budgets for cause marketing, all members of the panel were in agreement that community building through social and viral marketing is very powerful when there is strong community alignment. We spoke about the Obama campaign's leadership in community building prior to the primary as an extremely high-reach, cost-effective strategy.

As many of us had experience either directly or indirectly with the (RED) initiative, we were able to apply the components listed above and speak about how transparency and progress were not identified as requirements early on and become problematic. These requirements were added in the second year and now (RED) can claim over $100 Million in Revenue generated.

We ended the panel conversation with a discussion of the work that Adam Wehrbach has championed at Wal-Mart. He has helped to lead a massive change in behavior, but are there still critical issues that are not resolved? Is it real change, or is it green-washing?


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melanie thomas's picture


I'm a PR/COMMUNICATIONS MAJOR at Wilkes University. I'm researching social cause marketing for an ethics paper I'm writting for my senior seminar class. Can you explain what "Green Washing," is?

Keecia Broy's picture

Rajan -

Thanks for writing such a thoughtful post about the Cause Marketing conference at Kellogg. I learned a ton from moderating the session. I heard various perspectives about how and why companies choose to enter into a cause marketing partnership, including how they make the best business case for whatever partnership they pursue. There are some exciting things happening in the world of cause marketing, and it's exciting to know that these partnerships will continue to grow and evolve. Keep up the great work that you all are doing at Hot Studio - the quality and scope of your work is impressive!

Wendy's picture

Hey Rajan,

You wrote a very thorough post covering nearly everything in the panel. Thank you very much for sharing this! Please allow me to share this on my blog as well. I believe my friends who were not able to attend the panel or/and the Conference would highly appreciated your marvelous words!


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