Social purpose is not just for Christmas

Christmas

The first flurry of Christmas ads from brands aiming to influence our festive purchasing in their favour is quickly turning into a blizzard. Many will no doubt link their campaign to some sort of cause, but I suspect fewer will be so overt with their goodwill towards men, women, children, puppies and the planet than last year.

Some may suggest that this more bashful approach to presenting a company’s values is a retreat from Social Purpose driven marketing, but that would be to confuse CSR with Social Purpose.

Whilst CSR and Social Purpose are very different, they are influenced by the same three levers; scarcity of supply, forcing business to create sustainable operations; legislation and regulations, forcing business to adhere by acceptable standards; and transparency, which has led to levels of scrutiny that force business to behave more ethically.

CSR is a key, and extremely important part of business strategy, creating value for a business primarily from savings relating to these three areas. More sustainable supply chains and operations to reduce costs, operating in a professional, fair and compliant way helps to recruit and retain the best talent. And, every now and then, but primarily around Christmas, presenting activities relating to a cause close to their employees and customers’ hearts helps position the business as caring and ethical. The Christmas campaigns are simply reflective of business’s approach to charity within their CSR strategy; which is good, but has relatively limited impact.

Social Purpose creates longer term value for both the business and society from a sustained commitment to having a positive impact beyond the limitations of a business’ CSR strategy. Social Purpose is baked into a brand’s DNA, embedding greater belief in what a brand stands for to a far wider base of current and prospective stakeholders than CSR. It’s a long term strategic commitment, and not a tactical festive campaign or promotion. You may not notice an amplification of social or environmental messages in the run up to Christmas from brands that have Social Purpose, because they gain value from their positioning throughout the year.

So, whilst there may or may not be fewer campaigns overtly linking their Christmas campaigns to a cause this year, the growth in number of brands building Social Purpose into their brand means that it will be a much more prosperous, equitable and sustainable New Year for many, many more.