Companies long ago mastered the idea of “giving back” for a lot of reasons – some based on tax benefits and some on completely altruistic grounds.  In many cases, the idea of giving back usually didn’t mean giving away profits, but rather, being socially responsible.

The truth is, we, as consumers, like companies that are socially aligned with our own philosophies.  We want to buy into a brand, not just buy it.

“Most consumers seek an emotional connection and want to feel good about how they spend their money,” notes Brian Hughes, founder and CEO of Integrity Marketing & Consulting in an Entrepreneur.com editorial. “Marketing the actions your company takes to respond to selected hot-button issues provides that feel-good experience for your customers, which can translate into an emotional connection with your business. This effort leads to brand awareness and customer loyalty.”

A recent Weber Shandwick/KRC Research study found that 46 percent of consumers “increasingly buy from companies that make them feel good and happy.” And millennials in particular believe it matters if “American businesses give back to society.”

One of the primary reasons is the fact that social responsibility provides good public relations – and today, PR provides content for websites, social media, and traditional news outlets.  Participating in charitable events, such as fund-raising walks, or creating their own event, helps businesses get positive media coverage and in the digital world we live in, that translates into search engine optimization (SEO) – “earned media.” And it’s gold.

The bottom line in all this is that we, as consumers, spend more on these companies and their products or services – up to 55 percent more.

The good news is that size doesn’t really matter in this equation – here are three examples we found of companies that aren’t the biggest in their market but are providing value outside of the P and L statement and growing their brand because of their social awareness:

  • In the uber-challenging bookstore business, Better World Books has earned a following (and a Wikipedia article) for donating books and contributing to global literacy initiatives. The company’s website runs a ticker across its home page, providing visitors with a constantly updated account of books donated and funds raised for literacy and libraries.
  • Eyeglass sales company Warby Parker makes a monthly donation to its nonprofit partners based on the number of eyeglasses sold. The goal is to train citizens in developing countries how to give basic eye exams and sell inexpensive eyeglasses in their communities.
  • Detroit-based Better Life Bags designs custom, made-to-order bags. To make the bags, the company hires women who have had difficulty finding employment. The bags come with the names of the woman who made it.

No matter what, it’s refreshing to see that consumers, no matter how jaded they may be about some forms of advertising, media, and marketing, still respond to companies that give back and share their success in positive ways.

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