Marketers haven’t always had the best reputation. When many of us think of them, our minds fly to a skeezy looking man at a used car dealership trying with almost any means necessary to sell the ugliest thing there – for twice what it’s worth. Typically their falsified charms outweigh their actual ability to come across as genuinely concerned about your welfare.
It may be surprising to learn then that in many major industries the role of marketing professionals is changing rapidly. With the rise of social media flooding businesses with comments and data from potential customers, most industries realized that in order to sell their products they needed to begin engaging with their targeted demographic in a very different way.
Customers made it clear they were no longer interested in supporting a business that didn’t support their ideals; the new business model needed to show the good things companies were doing, needed to fully integrate the idea of social responsibility.
Social responsibility is defined as adhering to the ethical and legal standards associated with the industry. Most frequently, this is achieved through some sort of philanthropic cause at the local, national, or global level. For instance, many coffee distribution companies are socially responsible globally in that they source their products from communities where employees are paid fair wages, work reasonable hours, and aren’t destroying their environments.
Companies that take social responsibility and its marketing seriously are likely to see increased brand recognition as people begin to associate the business with the good work they do. Furthermore, it gives a large boost to brand reputation. Customers that are impressed by the good work the company does are liable to share this information with friends in a positive manner.
Lisa Dewey is a Pro Bono Partner at DLA Piper, one of the largest law firms in the US. The firm participates through their program, Signature Projects, which focuses on alleviating the negative impacts of major social issues such as education, hunger, domestic violence, and serving veterans. With the profound impacts of American poverty today, their work is greatly appreciated by its recipients.
According to Dewey, the program has also had a surprising impact on employees. During an interview in Forbes she said, “We’ve seen a noticeable impact in terms of strengthening relationships with clients, providing young attorneys practical and hands-on experience, improving employee morale, and deepening the firm’s ties to the many communities in which it operates.”
The Forbes article also concluded that between 45 and 59 percent of employers believed that their philanthropic work resulted in them attracting more qualified employees or developing employees that were more impactful to the company.
Socially responsible marketing is certainly attracting talented new employees to the field. Take for example recent Rutgers Business School graduate, Amelia Kaselaan. She designed her entire educational experience around socially responsible marketing. Her long-term goals are to “begin my career using my marketing knowledge to do good things, support the social responsibility initiatives of my employer, and ultimately give back to the community.”
A pre-graduation interview with her by her now alma mater revealed that during her schooling she interned at Subaru and acted as a point-person for their “Share the Love” campaign where the company donates $250 to the charity of the buyer’s choice with every new Subaru purchase or lease. By the end of the yearly event, the company had given away nearly $15 million. Kaselaan indicated she planned to continue working for the company after graduation day.
Changing ideals of what it takes to be a good marketing professional are benefitting hundreds of individuals both nationally and globally every year. Furthermore, they are helping businesses gain positive brand recognition, attract talented employees, and inspire the next generation of successful marketers. As we look towards the future, we will hopefully say goodbye to the sly used-car salesman and hello to the caring professional marketer.