In our last post, we defined employee engagement, and outlined the many benefits of making this a central focus in the workplace, with benefits in employee retention, productivity, and workforce well-being, especially in the millennial market.

But just making employees happy may not be enough. This week, we discuss why more employee engage- ment programs need to be purpose-driven to get the most out of employees’ potential.

Why Purpose as The Central Theme of Employee Engagement Programs
The employee engagement picture in America is not as bright as it could be. According to a June 2016 Gallup poll, only 32.6% of workers in the US feel engaged, while 50.7% were “not engaged” and 16.7% were “actively disengaged”.

One way to improve the participation rates of company-sponsored employee engagement programs is to establish cause and volunteering as core beliefs and to help employees to feel like stakeholders whose personal interests are aligned with their professional lives. Purpose-driven content and sponsored volunteer activities have proven to be the most effective means of increasing the emotional investment in their com- pany’s CSR and thus, increase their inclination to share positive stories about their company and their fellow employees.

Equally important in the process is the willingness to allow and encourage employees to provide input about which types of CSR initiatives are important to them. In fact, companies that do CSR well are those that have it embedded in employees’ jobs. Because employee engagement through CSR involves aligning participation with personal values, it makes the workplace more meaningful and productive. Striking that emotional chord with employees is easy for companies if they have the digital tools to discover and track emotional involve- ment in real-time. Creating work environments where people can be emotionally invested and authentic will enhance engagement and enable change.

“You must capture the heart of a supremely able man before his brain can do its best.”
— Andrew Carnegie

When employees exhibit passion toward a company cause, they also tend to take ownership of its market- ing. Such organic cause marketing engages employees in a mission aligned with company values, and can result in a win-win-win scenario where the business, associated nonprofits or causes, and stakeholders (em- ployees and customers) all benefit.

Cause marketing — also referred to as social marketing, charity marketing, social investment, and the like — uses marketing resources to support worthwhile causes while building the business. “Cause” as it pertains to CSR also extends beyond cause partners to cover sustainable business practices, community support, and any cause a company actively supports. It’s a highly effective way to build the brand and make CSR invest- ment visible, and knows no boundaries in terms of industry, market, cause sector, or culture.

As marketers and fundraisers seek more effective ways to engage stakeholders, and as analytics tools create new targeting and tracking possibilities, interest in cause-related marketing programs is on the rise. Many studies are finding that purpose is driving consumer preference and loyalty, and helping brands gain trust and differentiate themselves:

Cause marketing is profit plus purpose, and cause marketing programs are modern business practices that offer opportunities for companies to do well financially by doing good in society. Raising awareness, money and consumer engagement for social or environmental issues has become the new normal for organizations and brands, which are incorporating cause marketing into their overall toolkits.

Once practiced only by billion dollar mega-brands, more than 80% of Fortune 500 firms address cause marketing on their websites, with 61% of Americans willing to try a new brand or one unfamiliar to them when it supports a cause.3 Additionally, as government funding falls short of social needs, a gap has developed that gives large corporations opportunity for an increasingly powerful impact in society.

Further study findings reveal that:

When companies consistently engage in cause marketing, they can become recognized as much for their commitment and efforts toward particular causes as they are for the products that carry their name.4 That recognition is due not only to successful programs, but to success in marketing these programs. Examples5 include:
American Express, long seen as the originator of cause marketing with their 1983 campaign supporting renovation of the Statue of Liberty, continues to identify opportunities where their brand and community intersect. They conducted research that found that 75% of Americans believe “passion projects and the idea of pursuing one’s passion is necessary to help live [a] fulfilled life.”

Proctor & Gamble, through their Tide Loads of Hope program, has washed more than 58,000 loads of clothes for those affected by natural disasters. P&G continues to show up when hurricanes, tornados and wildfires impact communities, and has also spearheaded fundraising by selling t-shirts and giving a percentage of proceeds from Tide to affected areas. When companies consistently engage in cause marketing, they can become recognized as much for their commitment and efforts toward particular causes as they are for the products that carry their name. That recognition is due not only to successful programs, but to success in marketing these programs. Examples include:

American Express, long seen as the originator of cause marketing with their 1983 campaign supporting renovation of the Statue of Liberty, continues to identify opportunities where their brand and community intersect. They conducted research that found that 75% of Americans believe “passion projects and the idea of pursuing one’s passion is necessary to help live [a] fulfilled life.”
Proctor & Gamble, through their Tide Loads of Hope program, has washed more than 58,000 loads of clothes for those affected by natural disasters. P&G continues to show up when hurricanes, tornados and wildfires impact communities, and has also spearheaded fundraising by selling t-shirts and giving a percentage of proceeds from Tide to affected areas.

Aetna Insurance and U.S. Healthcare designated $7 million to educate women about heart disease and stroke. This type of effort helps neutralize the common charge that insurance companies care more about their bottom line than about their policyholders.
The Walt Disney Company and ASPCA entered into more than 100 merchandising agreements that the ASPCA claims will be worth many millions of dollars to the organization over time. The organization is able to fund its animal protection and welfare efforts, while Disney is able to list its support for a cause admired by its family audience.

Tom’s of Maine is known to its customers and employees as something more special than just another toothpaste company. The company gives 10% of its pretax profits to nonprofit organizations benefiting the environment, human need, arts, and education. Among the company’s noteworthy grants is its $500,000 contribution to the Nature Conservancy toward the acquisition and preservation of 185,000 acres along the Upper St. John River, the longest free-flowing river east of the Mississippi.

However, as cause marketing becomes commonplace, it’s likely to be less effective as consumers become desensitized to it. In fact, it’s already suffering from criticism. A recent study by Traction says cause-driven consumers are experiencing cause fatigue: 41% somewhat agree that cause marketing is “just spin,” and, according to the Havas Media Meaningful Brands Global Report, only 28% of consumers worldwide think that companies today are working hard to solve the big social and environmental challenges people care about.

Companies need a new narrative to break through the noise, Edelman’s 2012 goodpurpose® study states, something compelling that inspires stakeholders to engage, activate, and advocate for an organization. Rather than a fleeting sponsorship, a long-term commitment7 to a cause that supports a company’s core values is needed – a commitment in which companies:

• Build stronger partnerships with cause partners in related fields

• Leverage partners’ marketing capabilities to raise awareness about their program and brand

• Involve their whole team and help them feel positive about advancing change

• Deploy all their workforce and resources to create impact for worthy causes
Because of this, some believe the future for brands lies in purpose, or cause-centered, marketing rather than cause-related marketing. Purpose, beyond CSR, cause marketing, or altruism, is a core strategy for profit and growth based on tying a company’s raison d’etre with improving lives and impacting society, rather than just supporting an issue.

Additionally, purpose-led campaigns tend to focus on supporting something positive, rather than going against something negative, and better utilize “human-centric mediums” like social media and digital chan- nels, which have uprooted traditional giving and are radically changing the way Americans interact with social issues.8 Along with innovative experiential mediums (360° video, VR & AR), optimizing these channels inspires sharing, participation, and action.

What is needed is an ‘Inside-Out’ approach to marketing, guided by the belief that a company’s investment in making work more personally fulfilling and more socially purposeful will produce a sustainable future. The Inside-Out approach to employee engagement and CSR starts from within (a company’s talent, resources, customer relationships and distribution networks) and leverages these to reach its cause marketing goals through organic, authentic employee stories. Because of this, organizations need to create entertaining, yet deliberately transparent messaging with genuine engagement and laser-focus.

“When people go to work, they shouldn’t have to leave their hearts at home.”
– Betty Bender

What’s your favorite cause marketing campaign? Please let us know what causes your company is support- ing, or what causes you’d like to see them support in the future.