According to the Harvard Business Review, socially responsible marketing, also known as ethical consumerism, is defined as:
The broad label for companies providing products that appeal to people’s best selves (for example, fair trade coffee or a purchase that includes a donation to a charitable cause).
It’s great when a consumer finds a product they desire for a great price value. It’s great for retailers when they’re able to create a brand that consumers can latch on to, giving the brand loyalty for years to come.
But it’s even better when a brand can combine charitable acts designed to heal the world (or a local community) while allowing consumers to be part of the healing.
In fact, many consumers would rather pay a premium price for a product (or service) if they know that they gain the benefit of helping a retailer’s healing initiative.
Chico’s FAS group understood this when they created a partnership that benefited the Children’s Miracle Network. Specifically, they created a campaign that urged consumers to send hospitalized children a card, and the company would (in turn) donate a dollar against all product purchases to the Children’s Miracle Network.
Jessica Wells, Chico’s FAS vice president of PR and social media said:
These hospitals are located in the areas in which we live, in which our associated live. It’s really a way to support the community, but also support a national organization. (And) our customers have told us that they feel good about doing business with companies who are doing good
As you can see, the emotional triggers of participation, urgency, togetherness, and healing the local community were put to good use, with great effect.
I wrote about how TOMS Shoes combined the power of socially responsible initiatives with the emotional trigger of philanthropy and empathy.
What’s unique about TOMS is not only does the company regularly practice social responsibility campaigns (like many retail brands do), but they’ve built their entire business model around socially responsible commerce.
I shared how they accomplished all of their goals, below:
TOMS Shoes practices social responsibility by donating a pair of shoes to a child in need for every shoe purchase that a consumer makes. We all imagine that there are places in the world where many children lack shoes, and it can feel overwhelming for a first-world consumer to do something significant to address these needs.
This is why TOMS uses the tag-line ‘One for One’ on their websites. In their logo above, you’ll see that they lead with a philanthropic trigger, stating that “It starts with one”. You might notice that they’ve also used the encouragement emotional trigger.
When people feel overwhelmed about an issue, it’s human nature to avoid it altogether. TOMS addresses this conversion obstacle by encouraging prospective consumers to start addressing the issues of children living without shoes by completing one manageable task: Just purchase one pair of shoes.
The implication is that the consumer can certainly purchase one pair of shoes, and yet that single purchase could make all the difference in the daily lifestyle of a severely-impoverished child. When the message is framed this way, the prospect has no choice but to think to themselves, ‘I can do this! And, maybe I can purchase more than one pair of shoes, too, so that I help out even more children!’
The Save The Children organization also combines a top-notch marketing funnel with the urgency emotional trigger.
It’s not a coincidence that the reader of their landing pages will practically burst into tears upon viewing it. The Save The Children organization has been in business since 1919. They’ve had almost a century to learn how to tweak just the right emotional triggers-triggers that are designed to make the potential donor practically run to their wallet or their checkbook.
Their deceptively-simple landing pages motivates potential donors to end a child’s suffering, immediately.
The Save The Children landing page features a boy from a third-world country who is seemingly so overcome with hunger, he can only bury his anguished face in the palm of his hands. Is there anyone who views this photo who could say that they aren’t the slightest bit moved by the image of a young child who has given up all hope of a satisfying meal, let alone a happy, satisfying life?
As if the image doesn’t do its job of creating urgency, Save The Children goes a step further in it’s verbiage:
‘Refugee children are frightened, homeless, and many have witnessed unspeakable horrors. You can help them’
But, in case you’re still unclear about what to do, there’s the bright red button that reads: Donate Now.
Barring personal poverty, there’s no way that any prospective donor can look at this landing page and not feel the slightest tug of their heart.
If you’d like to create a socially-responsible campaign that helps to position your brand as compassionate, then the first step is to consider the causes that are a great fit for your brand, and your target audience.
Is your company an e-retailer, exclusively? Then you have the option of selecting a national or a global initiative to support. But if your company offers both digital and brick and mortar shopping options, then it might be best to consider a cause that helps program recipients in local communities.
Reach out to the public relations and marketing teams of your selected cause. They’ll be all too happy to partner with companies that feature wide-reaching platforms for their programs. At the same time, you’ll instantly strengthen your brand and possibly, your market share.
Social responsibility and commerce aren’t mutually exclusive, and e-retailers can create a win-win scenario by using emotional triggers that makes all involved feel purposeful.
Terri is a content marketing storyteller and strategist. She teaches marketing and entrepreneurship through stories for marketers of all stripes. Her specialty is creating narrative and she writes essays and memoir in her spare time.