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The Case for Branded Social Innovation and What Brands are Listening

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One of the most valuable and insightful reports that comes out each year is Edelman’s Good Purpose Report. The only global study of its kind, it provides invaluable insights into brand behavior, consumer expectations and fresh opportunities that exist between the two.

The 2012 Report reveals several insights that could constitute enormous competitive advantages for brands seeking to contribute towards social good as well as their bottom line. Of specific interest are the two charts below . The first reveals the advantage that brand purpose can bring when the price and quality of a product are on par. In fact social purpose as a purchase trigger has increased 26% overall since 2008, and as result the frequency of purchasing brands that support good causes has also increased.

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Moreover, in terms of generating brand loyalty in a crowded and fractured marketplace, the second chart reveals that since 2008 there has been a 39%, 34% and 9% increase in consumers recommending, promoting and switching brands based on their affiliation with a cause.

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In fact, while 87% of consumers believe business should place at least equal weight on societal issues and business issues, only 28% believe business is doing it well. This is an enormous and unmet need in the consumer marketplace that brands would be wise to capitalize on.

It’s little wonder then that brands from Nike to Coca-Cola to Starbucks are rallying even greater resources behind their social innovation efforts as way to make themselves more meaningful to their consumers and have greater impact. While each cause initiative will be specific to a brand, its category and core values, there are three key ways to drive social innovation.

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1. CONSUMER PARTNERSHIPS: A great example is the partnership formed between Intel, former ABC journalists and Vulcan Productions to create a consumer-facing transmedia campaign and film called 10 x10 to support the education of girls.

2. EMPLOYEE PROGRAMS: Burt’s Bee empowers employees through trainings to become skilled in environmental stewardship, social outreach, natural wellness, and sustainability leadership. Called The Greater Good Initiative, the comprehensive program supports a goal to achieve 100% employee engagement in sustainability by 2020 and, as the diagram indicates, this is a company-wide commitment.

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3. COMBINED EFFORTS: On a collective level, the #GivingTuesday campaign led by the 92Y, Mashable, Gates Foundation and U.N. Foundation brought together dozens of corporations in addition to charities, volunteer organizations and foundations.

Whether brands partner with consumer, mobilize their employees, or work in partnership with each other, each stands to benefit from consumer goodwill, loyalty and purchases by committing to causes meaningful to their customers’ lives. More than good intentions, this is sound business strategy that the Edelman Report suggests will continue to pay dividends for their bottom line and society as well over the short and long term.

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