Another Super Bowl starring Tom Brady has come and gone. And can I speak for all of us when I say, thank goodness it’s over? Whether you were actually watching the game or just hanging at a friend’s party for snacks and entertainment – my guess is you wish you could get your night back. Man, what a boring game. (And I like football, just to be clear.) But seriously, I was fighting to stay awake and nothing was helping – not the game, not the halftime show and not even my beloved commercials!
After last year’s memorable line up of purpose-driven ads, I had high hopes that cause marketing would return with an even greater presence! But for some reason, that just wasn’t the case. As a whole, the ads lacked just as much energy as the game did (aside from wind energy, of course). Which left me wondering why…
Where were the cause marketing ads?
It’s no secret that consumers’ expectations for corporate social responsibility (CSR) have never been greater. A decade ago, consumers made purchasing decisions based on quality and price. What’s the better product? What saves me the most money? Is it worth it to invest in quality now to save later? What’s the best bang for my buck?
But in today’s era of divided politics, unshakable convictions and controversial opinions on a wide variety of social issues – quality and price might keep you in the game, but they’ll no longer give you an advantage. Demands in transparency and accountability aren’t just directed at Washington. Consumers across the country expect more from the brands that inundate them day in and day out. They expect to know what you do with your money, with your employees, with your product materials – and most importantly, how you give back to the greater good. You better care about the issues they do, and you better back up your words with action.
Bottom line – we expect companies to stand for something. And it better be what we stand for. If everything checks out – you’ve got the advantage. If it doesn’t – well, that’s where this gets interesting.
Did these expectations impact the number of cause marketing ads we saw Sunday night?
Last year, when Nike’s PR team made the decision to publicly and definitively support Colin Kaepernick, what kind of questions do you think they discussed in their internal meetings? My guess is at some point in the conversation they asked, how many consumers will this cost us? And how many consumers will we gain? Now, I’m not making a case for or against Nike’s decision (that’s a different blog post). I’m just using it as a recent case study to question the direction that CSR and cause marketing are headed.
These are my questions:
With increasingly polarized expectations that our companies “pick a side” on social issues, are the brands we love being driven by purpose or by how cultural tides and popular opinion will impact their bottom line? Are we making it harder for companies to advance the missions they truly believe in for fear of the potentially ostracizing ripple effect? With a limited consumer pool and a divided country, when considering cause marketing…
Isn’t every company (like Nike) having to ask themselves, which side holds the most buying power?
My opinion? At the end of the day, consumers will see through the brands that stand for something only when it’s culturally convenient. However, brands that stand for something greater – driven truly by purpose and mission – will withstand the test of time.
What if next year, instead of spending $5 million on an ad to sell us something or advance a political agenda, companies donate their 30 seconds to a nonprofit so they can share their mission with an audience of more than 100 million people? How cool would that be? Talk about an energizing Super Bowl! I’d stay awake for that.
– Paige Burr, Senior Marketing Strategist