If you've been thinking about your company's carbon footprint, you're just a step away from a bigger idea that's taking shape in business culture today. It's called ethical marketing, and it was the focus of a keynote speech by David Sable, vice chairman and COO of Wunderman, at the DM Days New York Conference & Expo two months ago. His presentation was titled, "Fashion Statement or Fad du Jour: The Possibilities and Pitfalls of Ethical Marketing," but believe me, Sable was quite clear on the fact that companies must be more honorable in the way they interact with customers and conduct business if they want to remain relevant.
In fact, relevance is one of the four pillars of social responsibility that Sable defined based on research Wunderman conducted. The other three are:
- energized differentiation-how the audience perceives a company's market positioning relative to its competition;
- esteem-how much the audience respects and likes a company; and
- knowledge-how well the audience knows your company.
Combined, these pillars form the basis on which people make decisions about not only where to spend their money, but where to invest their time and energy. People don't want to keep pumping dollars or loyalty into a consumerist structure; after decades of corporate and government greed, they're ready to wield their buying power for good.
Where do you fit in this evolving marketplace? Certainly not jumping on the cause-related marketing bandwagon to try to drive sales, which Sable emphasizes would be missing the point entirely. Instead, companies must determine what truly matters to them and their customers, and then weave those goals into the fabric of their businesses.
For an example of how ethical marketing works at an organization that's nothing but cause-related-a nonprofit-read this month's cover story on the Maryland Food Bank. Rather than treat first-time donors like nothing more than new cash flow, it takes time to properly thank these supporters and tailor its second gift request to match each new donor's first gift amount. These steps go a long way in boosting loyalty between the food bank and its advocates. And loyalty, Sable said, is what cause-related marketing is all about.