So, whoever came up with the code injection I ran across this morning - kudos.
your business can have the custom programming required to run your business as efficiently as possible
your business, no matter the size, deserves a website you are proud of, that does exactly what you need
your creative agency shouldn't have to turn away work because you don't have developers on staff, or your developers are busy.
your customers deserve to have access to excellent technical support and customer service even when you're busy.
Changing Branding For Social Causes
Recently, Ben & Jerry's, the iconic Vermont ice cream manufacturer decided to re-release one of their flagship product "Chubby Hubby" as "Hubby Hubby" for the month of September in Vermont as a show of support for Freedom To Marry in honor of the Vermont legalization of same-sex marriage. While my general view of the issue doesn't matter (marriage is a church matter, not a matter of the state), I would like to applaud Ben & Jerry and the folks of Vermont for taking progressive stance on the issue. This product change prompted me to ask the lesser controversial question of "When is it acceptible to alter a flagship product to meet a perceived social need?"
TheBigMoney.com reports in an article that the Boston Globe's coverage of the name change drew some intense (and sometimes inappropriate) heat from anonymous posters on their article - mainly though from individuals who are anti-gay marriage, not people who were actually upset by the name change. Does this mean the name switch is a bust? Or a win? More likely a draw. I would assert that those posters probably haven't eaten Ben & Jerry's ice cream in a while, for the simple fact that ... well, a couple liberal hippies are responsible for the brand, even though corporate behemoth Unilever owns B&J and is a pretty staunchly right-wing company. Given this dichotomy between a right wing owner and a liberal brand, I can not but applaud Unilever in letting B&J persue their customers in a way that best suits the brand.
Ok -- enough with corporate politics, and back to the question at hand. When do you change your brand to meet a perceived social need? Generally, most companies, to put it plainly, do not have enough of a social conscience to even approach this question in a serious manner. On top of that, most products do not lend themselves well to this type of rebranding. I mean, seriously, could you imagine John Deere producing a line of pink tractors to support breast cancer research?
The issue really boils down to two points:
- Do your customers support the same cause?
- Is this a long term benefit to the charity or cause?
I guess both of those points really deserve clarification. In the first point, you have to ask yourself a follow up question or two:
- Will they buy it if you change the branding?
- In the case of companies who, like the yogurt companies who do the pink lids for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, will they buy it because you change the branding?
If the answer to the first question is yes, then it should be a go with little hesitation. If the answer to the second question is a yes, you do not require CEO approval, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars, just do the damned thing. Economically speaking, if you can broaden your consumer base, and potentially hide the expense of the change in the profit, there is no question about whether to do it, it becomes a question of how fast can it be done.
On to point two. From a strictly economic standpoint, the less concerning of the two, but from a socially responsible standpoint, the major question to ask. Is this a long term benefit to the charity or cause? I haven't met a fundraiser for a charity yet that would say no to a dollar. There are potentially dozens of ways to answer this question, but here are my favorite ideas:
- If the charity is not a foundation (meaning that they do not have an established fund that carries over year to year and budgetary restraints in place to control that fund), consider working with the charity to establish a fund, if this is going to be a one time, large donation. To put it succinctly, if you are a large company helping raise funds for a small company, kick them a few of your legal and financial team members for a few weeks to make sure this giving lasts them as long as possible (oh, and don't put your CEO's husband or wife on the foundation's Board...that's just tacky...very tacky).
- The example I mentioned above (Ben & Jerry's Hubby Hubby) is a great example a one time donation. If you are thinking of establishing an ongoing or cyclical relationship with a charity or cause, there needs to be ground rules set and expectation management from the get go. Your support may not wain for the charity in question over the years, but your customer's perceived novelty of the relationship will causing future campaigns to generate less revenue. Contests and matching donations only go so far as novelty is only novel, well, so long. (Yes. Yes I have been dying to use that phrase for a while; I know it's cheesy, but I had to get it out there.)
This last idea got me thinking of the interaction between social media, companies and their charities. Yes, I know that I pimp MyStarbucksIdea.com pretty relentlessly, but they've actually put the proof in the half-caf-double-shot-no-whip-soy-latte, so to speak, by proving their relationship with charities and local communities. There is more that can be done past proving relationships; actually getting your social media following to grasp on to the idea and spread it for you gets the idea out there quickly and gets like minded individuals access to your cause, possibly getting people involved who are not your current customers. Exploiting social gatherings (you know -- out there? in the 'real' world) with roots in social media (aka 'tweetups' or 'meetups') is beneficial as well. SXSW (South by South West), a marketers dream event, hosted the SocialMedia Smack Down at their event this year, raising tens of thousands of dollars for the associated charities. This was really more of a case of a well known brand lending its presence to the event rather than rebranding itself for the event, but I think the principles still apply; they got people to come out to support the SXSW event who might not have otherwise come, by offering the added benefit of boosting the social conscience.
Have an idea on the topic? Leave me a note below or hit me up at jeremy [at] kiveo [dot] net.