A New Paradigm of Purpose-Driven Marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility

What if you could put together a brilliant marketing campaign that inspired people to make positive change in the world? It would have to reflect your corporate culture in order to be genuine. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is more than a buzzword, it should be a mission. If you are like most of us, you want to help others and you really do care about the earth and all the creatures it sustains. Or do you? Even if the word “profit” is your mantra, you can still make money and be a good corporate citizen.

Panera Cares Cafe

Image source: Bostonherald.com

More and more business owners are realizing that it’s not all about making money. Money makes for a comfortable existence, but it isn’t fulfilling. Changing the way we do business to become more socially conscious has a domino effect — it attracts customers who want to do business with ethical companies, and it raises awareness for a cause while also raising your company profile.

Today’s consumer often chooses to purchase products or services from a company that is giving back to their community and has a purpose beyond a paycheck for the owners. Cone Communications and Echo Research conducted a survey with 10,000 people from ten countries with the largest GDP in May, 2013. They found that “91% of global consumers are likely to switch brands to one that supports a good cause, given similar price and quality, and 92% would buy a product with a social and/or environmental benefit if given the opportunity, and more than two-thirds (67%) have done so in the past 12 months.”

Does your company have a purpose besides making money? Your brand has to be socially aware to compete in this new paradigm. People will gravitate towards a company that they feel is offering more than a product or service in exchange for money. Social responsibility means that you pay your workers a decent wage and treat them right.

You also have to be transparent about your product or service and don’t try to sell the public anything they don’t need. Don’t look at it as a marketing ploy; people are too savvy to be fooled by a play on their heartstrings in order to capture their credit cards. You can make a profit but also act with the humanity of a non-profit.


The Rise of Purpose-Driven Social Brands Infographic

Image source: Simonmainwaring.com

The 7 Graces Project CIC (Community Interest Company) is a not-for-profit organization that inspires companies to market their business in a purposeful way that serves society and the planet. They provide training and support to businesses from all sectors to help make the world a better place.

“Yeah, right,” you might be thinking. “These are all ideas formulated by a bunch of hippies sitting around at Burning Man or one of those festivals.”

Maybe. Burning Man is indeed an incubator for radical thought, but if the idea of doing some good with your business is considered radical, maybe you need some of that in your life and business! And don’t think it will only appeal to a small portion of your customers, because it isn’t just the “hippies” who care. Good works are easy to market, and f you are doing something that benefits society, it grows on social media and the word spreads on its own.

Panera Bread is the perfect example. The sandwich shop chain started opening “Pay What You Can Locations,” called Panera Cares Cafes, in 2010. These stores are similar to their revenue-generating counterparts, but they offer people who usually can’t afford to sit down and have a nice sandwich the opportunity to have that bit of pleasure. Those who can’t pay can offer an hour of service if they wish to do so. The company has found that the public is not taking advantage of their kindness and many people who can afford to pay more are doing so, since the money goes back into the program.

Here is their mission statement — “Panera Cares was designed to offer an experience that feeds the belly and feeds the soul. We seek to help uplift those who are struggling with food insecurity.” Sure sounds like something you could market successfully, doesn’t it? And all while doing something good for the community!

Marketing and advertising isn’t the same as it was a few decades ago. We realize that we have to use the power of marketing to spread positive messages. Back in the fifties and sixties, advertising was all about making the buck. It was also sexist. This is a Folgers’ Coffee TV commercial from the 1960s:


You probably wouldn’t want that associated with your business these days, would you? We aren’t singling out Folgers, either. Much of the advertising was created in this vein. Luckily, this isn’t the favored method anymore.

Here is another video from a campaign for Maxwell House (Canada) which ran a few years ago. Maxwell House had to compete with gourmet coffee companies with cool names like Kicking Horse, which they did by promoting organic, fair-trade, and sustainable business practices. The campaign not only raised the profile of this brand, which was perceived by many millennials as old fashioned, but it created a bond with people because they felt the company (owned by Kraft Foods) was a good corporate citizen. The campaign made a huge impact and suddenly that vintage household name had some credibility in the corporate social responsibility department.


What is your company doing to change the world? If you are a bit cynical and your outlook resembles the starter used to make that wonderful sourdough bread they serve at Panera, take stock of your business practices. Like sourdough starter, a little bit of goodness is like a seed that can make a lot of bread. We also mean “bread” like the slang term for  money. Do it as a marketing strategy if you have to, but don’t be surprised if you end up caring and giving more. Whatever cause you choose to help, spread the word on social media and in your email marketing.

Be transparent. If you haven’t been a good corporate citizen to date, ask for suggestions on how to improve through your social media. People love to give their opinion, especially when it comes to social responsibility. Get your social influencers involved and spread some joy and love around, but do it in a way that actually makes a difference. I hate to use cliches, but put your money where your mouth is. Do it.

Or, maybe I should say, “Just do it.”  Those three little words put Nike on the map and encouraged people to become healthier. What it also did, as the company became more popular, was draw attention to some of the issues Nike had with corporate social responsibility. They are trying to change that. They know that they can do better, and we can all do better.

Everyone has something that truly matters to them — make that passion your cause. You only need to invest some heart and a bit of money. What you give will come back to you in ways you never imagined.

iPost provides on-demand connected digital marketing solutions to help you create and implement effective email marketing, social media and mobile campaigns that enhance your loyalty program. The experts at iPost have over a decade of experience providing integrated B2B and eCommerce marketing solutions. Contact us for an analysis of your email campaign.

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2 comments on “A New Paradigm of Purpose-Driven Marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility
  1. Hi Pam,
    Thanks for mentioning the 7 Graces Project in your article. I had a chuckle when I read the comment about burning man. While I myself might be classed as an old hippie (being a Baby Boomer), your audience should know that the project itself most assuredly is not. We run a course called Foundations of Ethical Marketing, as well as a Certification programme (called ‘Applications of Ethical Marketing’) in which independent business owners learn practical, hands-on ethical marketing strategies for their specific business, as well as essential leadership skills that enable them to build successful business collaborations.

    While still in our 1st year of development, the bigger vision is to bring this training to 3rd world countries and urban centres where local communities have been disempowered by corporatisation and unemployment. I personally believe the way forward through the economic and environmental instability all human beings now face is to help rebuild independent entrepreneurship, based upon socially-focussed values rather than non-stop profits.

    Again thanks for the mention, and I’ll be sure to share your article with my network.

    Warm wishes,
    Lynn Serafinn
    Founder, 7 Graces Project, CIC

  2. Pamela S. says:

    Thanks, Lynn! It sounds like a wonderful organization!