There is a fine line between what used to be called “cause marketing” and disingenuous virtue signaling in your marketing communications programs. I tend to prefer neither, and much prefer when your actual corporate values stand for something.
An example of the disingenuous kind of virtue signal marketing is when brands and marketers use “greenwashing” strategies. This is when the organization spends more money and time to glitz up its brand around a commitment to the environment, as opposed to actually doing something for the environment.
“Cause marketing” is a little better, but not much. This is when companies and organizations truly do make a commitment to an important cause, and they may even make a difference, but that commitment only lasts as long as the marketing budget around the initiative. Since the motivation is primarily marketing, a drive for return-on-investment in the marketing spending supersedes a fundamental commitment to the cause. This tends to come through in time, and the impact of the marketing program wanes because it was never authentic. It loses its sustainability as a result.
Good organizations make doing the right thing an everyday part of what they do. It becomes part of their DNA so much so, that it becomes second-nature for their people. They may even start to take for granted the good that they do.
I’ve sometimes found this to be the case when the founders who’ve built and grown their companies based on a certain set of values remain at least somewhat involved in the companies. I’ve also seen it in cases where leadership has discovered that the unique strength of the organization from both a competitive and a growth perspective is a strong organizational culture. They’ve learned that to establish that culture, they had to build it around values first and foremost. Strong performance followed.
In other words, leadership knows that strong marketing performance is downstream from a strong corporate culture. And a strong corporate culture is downstream from very strong corporate values.
Do you have any stories that make this case? Let me know. I’d love to hear them.