By Steve RandazzoMaking the world a better place is not just for activists and billionaires. Now, brands are taking on this role after realizing just how much their customers care about social and environmental causes. Corporate social responsibility initiatives have become popular in business plans, where companies send portions of their profits over to charities that they and their customers care about. However, given the short attention span of today's consumers as well as their growing passion for social and environmental justice, it's time to take brands' giving missions to the next level. Here's the truth: For customers to really feel like they’re participating in social good, they need more than passive efforts. So don’t let your mission go unnoticed. You’re literally using your business to create good in the world — it’s time to act like it. How to Turn Passive CSR Into Active CSR Instead of merely ticking off the CSR box on your advertising checklist, treat your social or environmental mission as a business priority. Be active and creative in how you show — rather than tell — customers that you care. 1. Take up space with your mission Many brands will place their CSR initiatives in the corner of their website and social media as a subtle hint that they care. Sure, humility is attractive, but customers don’t have time to take in these quiet signals. Upon visiting your company’s website, customers should immediately know that you are serious about CSR. In fact, it should appear to them as if CSR is one of the biggest reasons why your brand even exists. To do this, fill your website with content devoted to your social endeavors. For example, Warby Parker is one company that presents its CSR mission beautifully. Visit the company's website and you’ll find an entire section devoted to its “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” program. Full of thoughtful text, graphics, and images, it turns CSR into an exciting, ongoing project, like a scrapbook or a video diary. In total, these elements make the cause come to life for Warby Parker's consumers. Remember, whatever your cause may be, make sure to invest in the time and use creativity to put together engaging content that takes up meaningful space. 2. Help customers join in The best way to move beyond passive activism is to build interactive elements into your CSR initiatives. Don’t just present the facts — customers can’t do much with those other than read them and move on. Instead, inspire people to take action alongside you by creating opportunities for them to interact. Patagonia does just this in a super engaging, brand-building way. It created a program called Patagonia Action Works that matches customers to causes they care about. Website visitors provide their location details and specify causes they’re interested in, like “climate” or “communities.” Then, they are led right to local organizations that need support. This is all presented in a vibrant, visual way, with energizing calls to action, including buttons that prompt visitors to “Act Now!” By using interactive elements, your brand can create a two-way street of interaction, and customers will be thankful for the opportunity you’re providing them to give back. 3. Take a road trip Don’t get stuck within the confines of your website or office. By taking your CSR mission on the road, you can spread the word faster than any TV ad or promotional packaging ever could. KaBOOM!, a nonprofit we’ve worked with for several years, is a noteworthy example of an organization that transports its CSR campaign on the road. Its mission is to bring fun and play to underprivileged youth in America. The nonprofit created a model of giving to support this mission. Its team drives around the country to form connections with other companies and organizations, all while bringing change to one community at a time. For example, in 2016, KaBOOM! partnered up with Target to create 175 play areas across the United States. These efforts affected more than 72,000 kids. Now, those children and their families think about both KaBOOM! and Target as members of their community that actively care about their lives. When you compare all this goodwill and awareness to simply writing a check out to a charity, there's no contest. Active CSR campaigns take the prize. CSR should be the heart of what your brand does, not just the cherry on top. It’s only then that customers will see your brand as part of their social giving lives. Show that, like them, your brand has a vested interested in solving problems in the world, and that by sticking with you, they’ll also be actively helping people, too. In the end, that’s how one-off buyers become fierce brand fanatics who continue to support your brand's efforts for the long haul. Steve Randazzo is the founder and president of Pro Motion Inc., an experiential marketing agency located in Missouri. With more than 30 years of experience in the industry, Steve has longstanding relationships with big-name clients, including The Walt Disney Company, Hewlett-Packard, Duck Brand, Fiskars, CITGO, the NBA, and Tractor Supply Company. Photo: Warby Parker
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