Marketing teams talk a pretty good game when it comes to “purpose-driven marketing” and “corporate responsibility.” That’s because they know that when those two disciplines are successfully conflated, the result is happy customers, increased sales and satisfied investors.
But talking the talk and walking the walk are two very different games. The reality is that in most companies, brand marketing teams have little interaction with the corporate responsibility team and vice versa, and that’s a serious problem. Because in order for companies to succeed at anything close to purpose-based marketing, this relationship must be forged and fostered.
That’s not an easy task, so marketers first need to consider whether it’s worth the effort. The answer is yes, and here’s why: Corporate responsibility is not just the latest craze. In fact, the growing popularity of so-called purpose-driven brands are the result of very real societal shifts that are changing our expectations of companies.
These include consumers, especially younger ones, who scrutinize a company’s environmental and social bona fides before they purchase or sign on as employees. Other factors include declining confidence that government can effect change while private enterprises like Google, SpaceX and Bitcoin are edging into roles formerly assumed to be the provenance of governments.
While brand and corporate communications teams may be the holder of things like company values, brand promises and brand attributes, that’s not enough for building a successful purpose-oriented program. Marketers must have a clear and unfiltered view into the inner workings of their overall operations to see the opportunities and the hazards that can make or break programs once they hit the public airwaves.
That’s where the CSR team comes into play.
The CSR team is the keeper of knowledge about what matters to people about the company’s operations and what is being done about it. Things like gender pay equity and diversity, privacy and security or environmental protections. These people know where you’re weak, where you’re strong, where you have a leg to stand on or just one that will trip you up.
Unsurprisingly, marketers often find the CSR professionals to be a different breed of cat. Many are scientists by education or background. They are fastidious about detail and accuracy, and they revel in the technical specifics. Their work takes them into areas of a company’s operation that most marketers rarely venture into, and their internal networks look very different. In sum, they can be a big new player on your team.
There are other differences as well. For example, marketers think about selling more product at higher margins while corporate responsibility teams think about a reducing a company’s impact on the environment and communities.
Marketers worry about being ignored or commoditized, and CSR teams think about wasting resources and hurting people or communities.
Whereas marketers seek engagement, reach, frequency and optimization, CSR folks prefer sustainability, social impact, transparency and authenticity. And when marketers and their agencies look for heroes, they go to David Ogilvy and Bill Bernbach, while the CSR group looks to William McDonough and Paul Hawken.
More simply put: Marketers are traditionally right-brained but headed increasingly left. CSR pros are traditionally left-brained but leaning increasingly right.
In today’s marketing landscape, conceiving any sort of purpose-related brand marketing campaign or initiative without the CSR team at the table is foolhardy. Doing so risks leaving marketers open to surprises as well as missing the opportunity to find a hidden gem of an option they may have never discovered otherwise. And often, those hidden gems have an authenticity that makes them uniquely yours, a hallowed ground for most marketers.
Marketers should anticipate that the CSR team’s different perspective will, at times, be challenging. Just remember that the benefit of diverse points of view generally nets better results. Start by inviting a few CSR colleagues to coffee and hear what they have to say. They’ll probably have you walking the talk in no time.
This article was originally published by Adweek.