We talked about individuals donating to charities and related causes last Friday. Corporations do it too.
But for entirely different reasons.
Companies’ philanthropic efforts are aimed at two very basic commercial aims:
- Drive more sales
- Enhance stature or reputation
A whole field of “study” related to all of this has emerged – you can actually get an MBA in “CSR” (“Corporate Social Responsibility”).
In the best cases, companies will donate outright to causes they are compassionate about. See American Century funds for example, and its philanthropic dedication to the cause of biomedical cancer research.
Best cases like that are rare. More typical:
“Hilton Garden Inn is partnering with hunger-relief organization Feeding America to provide meals to needy families…Through September 30, customers who book the promotional room rate will receive a cooked-to-order breakfast and the…hotel will make a donation to Feeding America that will help provide one million meals.”
Would a would-be guest actually use this as part of his decision criteria when choosing where to stay? And if Hilton wants a lift in its brand image, why require guests to ante up – why not just donate “x”% of monthly revenues?
“Allstate Insurance Co. is donating $10 to Autism Speaks for every insurance quote completed by December 14, up to $500,000.”
All kinds of questions on this one. What is the relationship between autism and insurance? Should people get a quote even if they don’t need any insurance, simply to do a good thing? (Seems like it would be easier just to write Autism Speaks a check for $10.) And like the hotel guest, is a real insurance seeker going to be influenced by this?
Not to beat a dead horse, but:
“Nikon has launched the ‘Small Moments are Huge’ online photo gallery, encouraging people to share their small, but memorable, moments…For every photo uploaded, Nikon has pledged to donate $1 to the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island, with a maximum gift of $50,000.”
ONE dollar? That’s supposed to push fence-sitters over the edge? And what’s with the tiny cap? Nikon annual revenues are near $150 billion.
This approach of “if you do something we’ll do something” misses an even larger point made by, and we quote, C. B. Bhattacharya, Sankar Sen and Daniel Korschun, in their recent book, "Corporate Responsibility: The Stakeholder Route to Maximizing Business and Social Value":
“What we find is that stakeholders really want companies to be outcome-focused rather than input-focused. What that means is, don't say that we are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on solving this crisis, but rather say that we have saved 100 lives or we have kept 200 people warm from the cold winter.”
Another proof point for the old maxim about product positioning – “Benefits, Not Features.” Too much of today’s cause marketing, we declare, is just more for the features side of the ledger.