The corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement continues to thrive and brands are slowly but surely shifting their focus to broader and deeper issues surrounding sustainability, accountability and governance concerns.
Early this month Selfridges launched Project Ocean, a CSR campaign based on the pledge that it will stop sourcing and selling all non-sustainable fish, a project supported by partners including the Zoological Society of London and the Marine Conservation Society.
More recently, The Carbon Trust released its survey revealing that half of the 1,000 UK respondents are more concerned than they were five years ago about the impact of companies on the environment.
It is clear that while leading brands are adopting new CSR models that boost their bottom lines (61% of people are more likely to buy from companies with good reputations), communicating that message effectively to influence and educate consumers takes an innovative marketing approach.
The Carbon Trust survey shows that consumers are more aware of a brands strategy and that 56% of people are more loyal to brands that can show evidence of environmental actions. Given the need to win that consumer loyalty, it is imperative for marketers to play a greater role in driving that change.
Project Ocean, as a recent example, has had a strong publicity campaign and celebrity involvement. T-shirts, a bucking whale ride in-store and interactive window displays communicate their project in an entertaining and social way.
However, maintaining that customer loyalty over a sustained period of time is imperative. As Harry Morrison, general manager of the Carbon Trust Standard and Peter Walshe, global BrandZ director of Millward Brown said in their FT article, if a company makes a “one-off improvement to win publicity” and then returns to normal operations, it will have lasting consequences for the brand’s reputation.
So while brands can see the reasons why they should adopt and maintain their CSR strategies, many marketers will be wondering how they will effectively convey this message and improve their brands reputation.
While Project Ocean is an innovative CSR strategy, to effectively communicate the business model, goals and achievements, video is the ideal platform.
Researched by the Channel 4 Britdoc Foundation to reveal a strong influence on consumer habits is the film “The End of the Line”. The film was an expose into over-fishing in our oceans and Channel 4 analysed the lasting impact it had on businesses and the general public in changing their perceptions to marine sustainability.
Since its release, over a million people have now seen the documentary from when it was originally launched in 2009. Researchers calculated that for every person who saw the film, 510 knew about it. Politicians, multi-national companies, celebrities and millions of individuals were all influenced by the film in the way they think about fish.
Brands adopting a sustainability strategy are entering into a lengthy commitment; both to the environment and with their consumers. By maintaining an on-going dialogue with their audience brands are able to effectively communicate that commitment over a sustained period of time.
Based on the statistics from “The End of the Line” it’s shown that video is an effective means to amplify the vision, goals and success of a CSR strategy. With more recent statistics from the Nielsen VideoCensus report showing that 26.9million people in the UK watched streamed video content from their home and work computers in April 2011, and YouTube attracted 19.5m unique users; the moving image is now a loud platform for marketers to ignore.
The power of the moving image is undeniable and has often been cited as a key influence for consumers. ‘The Rachel’ haircut from the early series of Friends was copied by young women around the world and computer games have been claimed to affect and influence young teenagers.
As Forrester research recently revealed, a minute of video is worth 1.8m words. It is an obvious choice for brands when communicating the various CSR projects and issues and done well, can not only influence consumer purchasing habits, but do so in an engaging and entertaining way.
One of the leading brands who has, since the 1930’s, innovatively used the immerging media is Procter & Gamble. In the 1930s the corporation produced and sponsored the first radio “soap” operas to highlight their products and when the medium switched to television in the 1950s, most of the new serials were sponsored and produced by the company.
Series including “The Young and the Restless”, “As the World Turns” and “Days of Our Lives” became house-hold institutions. P&G has witnessed positive benefits from embracing green policies and has used its knowledge of the latest media innovations to effectively deliver the same communication strategies for its CSR programme. The corporate overview of the CSR vision is a film of the companies Vice President for Global Sustainability and other projects are highlighted through video including ‘Children’s Safe Drinking Water’.
During the early stages of the CSR movement Nike was one of the brands hit by the growing demand from consumers for transparency and a need for a higher level of ethical conduct from a brand.
Last month Nike launched its Better World campaign, a programme that through the acquisition of data can help the industry as a whole better understand its impacts and prepare for future trends like climate change, food and material shortages, and escalating oil prices.
Using a video campaign created with recycled Nike ads the brand explains and influences not only its consumers, but peers within the industry.
Brands considering or implementing a CSR strategy should consider the medium in which they communicate their programme. With The Carbon Trust revealing that 20% of sales are directly linked to corporate reputation, building that customer loyalty is imperative.
Nike and other brands including Waitrose, and M&S Plan A all use video to show their sustainability vision, responsibility and future impact, not only to drive sales but to provide a lasting reputation for the brand.