Millennials are officially assuming the mantle of the largest generation in U.S. history, which means they wield immense spending power. As a result, their preferences are firmly in the spotlight. They demand convenience associated with shopping services such as Amazon and entertainment platforms such as Netflix, and they also expect technology to be ubiquitous across industries. What’s perhaps most common among Millennials, however, is the tendency to associate themselves with brands that champion a cause.
A staggering 91% of Millennials report that brands with a cause are more appealing to them, and they would spend extra to back these companies that have a sense of corporate social responsibility. Those same Millennials are also part of the largest generation in the workforce. 64% of them will consider a company’s CSR mission when looking for a job, while three-quarters indicate that they would take a lower-paying job if it allowed them to work for a socially responsible company.
With all of this in mind, companies should help people and contribute to causes because it’s the right thing to do, not as a PR stunt to drive profits. Still, taking up an authentic CSR mission can have a huge impact on your bottom line and turn customers into passionate advocates.
3 Ways to Activate a Meaningful CSR Campaign
Take note of the following steps to create a CSR campaign that is the best fit for your brand and will grab the attention of consumers — including Millennials:
1. Talk to your team.
To arrive at a CSR mission in an organic way, start with a company-centric approach instead of one focused solely on trying to please the consumer. Look around the room at employees and find out what causes they feel strongly about. Authentic company buy-in is absolutely vital to the success of an outreach program. If employees aren’t passionate about the cause they’re supposed to champion, it’s not likely to get much traction with anyone outside the company, either.
The Millennial consumer is always looking out for brand authenticity, and he or she can sniff out the opposite from 30,000 feet away. That’s not to say that Millennials fault you for giving to a worthy cause, but the goal of a CSR mission is to create outspoken brand advocates who find the enthusiasm of employees infectious. To do this, poll your employees to see what they find the most meaningful, and categorize these causes broadly.
2. Ask the audience.
You have a list of causes that hold serious sway with your employees; now it’s time to test the customer waters. Whether you send out an email inquiry or post a poll on your website or social media channels, figure out how to accurately measure customer opinions so you can discover what moves them.
Once you have a cause that both you and your customers are excited about, you can start to pursue it. If you’ve done your homework and the people around you are truly motivated by the opportunity to give back, you’ll start seeing results in no time.
3. Make it fit.
Occasionally, the cause that your employees and customers are enthusiastic about won’t be one that is easily associated with your brand. Sometimes, finding the connection will take outside-the-box thinking.
For example, one of our agency’s clients, Duck Brand, decided to support an initiative to combat childhood bullying called Project Love. At first, the connection between tape and the proposed cause wasn't immediately clear. The result, however, made perfect sense. Duck Brand’s Stick Together campaign toured elementary schools around the country demonstrating how difficult it is for bullies to tear people apart when they stick together. Kids took a pledge to "stick together" against bullying by sticking pieces of Duck Tape with their names on them on large anti-bullying banners hung in their schools' hallways.
Don't feel discouraged if your brand and an initiative don't fit like perfect puzzle pieces right away. Ample brainstorming can help you find the themes and connections needed to make a CSR campaign soar.
It's Time to Activate
Given the Millennial penchant for CSR initiatives, it’s common for brands to passively adopt a cause and hope for a boost in sales. Brands might donate a certain portion of proceeds to a charity or only buy materials that are certified fair trade. The issue with this approach is that it doesn’t ignite passion in people or move them to become advocates for your brand.
However, experiential marketing approaches offer solutions to this dilemma. For one, if your cause is truly a CSR mission, your website should convey it immediately. An entire section of your site should highlight your cause with fresh, compelling content. Interactive content is even more effective. The Patagonia Action Works program, for example, allows visitors to provide their location and what causes they care about and then generates a list of local opportunities to get involved with.
Adopting a mission has to be just that: a mission. Your cause should drive you and your company to make a difference. The side benefit is that while you’re making a difference in the community, you’ll be making a difference to your bottom line as well.