By Jesse Hertstein
Scott Goodson is a marketing expert who has worked with some giants of corporate enterprise. He shifts his focus to the social sector in his book, How to Build a Brand—and Change the World—by Sparking Cultural Movements.
According to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Goodson’s core argument is that, “The best way to reach people is to look for topics and causes around which they are already gathering and align one’s brand with those topics or causes.”
We’ve been discussing this idea a lot lately at Amway. This year, we celebrate 10 years of the Amway One by One Campaign for Children, and a milestone of helping 10 million children. This campaign, which started as a corporate initiative, has evolved into a grassroots movement that rallies Amway people around different children’s causes in hundreds of communities across the globe.
So what has made it successful? It likely has something to do with what Goodson proposes. He says, “Instead of marketing and advertising being focused on the individual, marketers must learn to understand and relate to people in interconnected groups; instead of convincing people to believe an ad message, marketers must try to tap into what it is that people already believe and care about; instead of being focused on selling, the way to connect with movements is to be dedicated to sharing; instead of controlling the message, marketers must learn to relinquish control and let the movement do what it will with that message.”
When Amway employees and distributors are out volunteering or building advocacy programs for children’s causes, they aren’t focused on selling products or trying to build their business. They are living out shared values, or “shared endeavors” as Goodson calls them. As a result, an affinity is built among our people, as well as those they come into contact with. And that affinity translates well across countries, communities and cultures.
A couple of years ago, we documented the work of one of our top leaders, Tim Foley. Each year, Tim travels to Guatemala with a group of volunteers from the US to build homes with Habitat for Humanity, alongside the future home owners. When prompted to articulate the business connection between his volunteerism and the business, he said, “The Amway business is about helping people get what they want. In this case, they want a house, and we can do something about that.”
Goodson says, “Companies and brands must learn to stop talking about themselves and to join in a conversation that is about anything and everything but their product.” And it doesn’t have to be about one certain issue that the company chooses. In fact, the Amway One by One Campaign for Children has become successful because we posed a global challenge, but we let Amway people at the local level choose the most compelling causes, as well as the best ways to address them.
A recent Journal of Marketing article published the results of a study which found that, designed the right way, cause marketing campaigns that allow consumers to choose the cause, can lead to greater consumer support of the brand.
Ten years ago, with little foresight as to the ultimate benefit for our company, Amway leaders created a Shared Endeavor that has elevated our visibility, engaged our people, and helped millions of people to reach their potential, and live a better life.
It’s a different way of looking at why a company engages in social causes, how networks are used, and how we can work collectively to make a positive difference in the world.
Jesse Hertstein is Amway Senior Corporate Citizenship Specialist, and author of the Amway One by One Campaign for Children blog, which provides thought leadership around grassroots cause activation and captures stories of successful partnerships around the world. He has traveled extensively documenting Amway CSR programs, and serves as a leader in his own community around issues of literacy.