There is extensive research and data points around consumer expectations of corporate support for causes. 94% of consumers believe that companies should support good causes (2018 Cone Porter Novelli Purpose Study), 90% of consumers are loyal to brands that support causes and 91% indicate they would change brands to support one that supports cause (2013 Cone Communications Social Impact Study). While this data overwhelmingly supports the need for brands to have a purpose strategy, it is imperative that the strategy is authentically tied to the business you are in and to your brand values. Stray from this rule and everything that follows will fall flat.
Do The Right Thing
As a component of a project TACK10 is currently leading to assess potential cause partners for a powerful CPG brand, we conducted an interview with the company’s CEO to ensure alignment to his overarching strategy and business drivers. When asked the question “what makes an ideal cause partnership for your business”, this executive’s response was “first and foremost, we must partner with an organization because it is the right thing to do. After that is established, we can determine how to create employee or consumer facing elevation that resonates with these stakeholders. That can be accomplished if we start with a commitment that authentically connects to our business and our brands”. This organization has rooted itself by first having very clear corporate values and then by assessing cause partners based on the primary criteria that working with that organization is the right thing to do to deliver on corporate values.
Pivoting Brand Strategy Creates Risk
Friday I saw a press release announcing a relationship between Weight Watchers, WE and Wholesome Wave. I do not have any experience with Wholesome Wave but do have a lot of respect for Weight Watchers and WE. Despite, or perhaps because of the exposure I have had to both of these brands, I was scratching my head on the partnership fit. Only after digging deeper into the relationship components was it clear that both Weight Watchers and WE have partnered with one another to support their respective brand pivots.
Weight Watchers has been on a journey over the past three years to evolve from a weight loss/diet brand to a wellness brand, concerned with helping members lead healthier lives through commitment to physical and mental well being. While this holistic approach to personal wellness is a brilliant pivot, the recent launch of WW Good and commitment to the wellness of communities feels like quite the leap for a company that has not yet fully integrated and optimized its product to deliver on the holistic wellness value proposition it is building its brand around.
Like Weight Watchers, WE has undergone a major pivot in the last 2 years, re-branding from Free the Children to WE Charity. Under its new brand and tagline “Making doing good, doable”, WE is on a journey to evolve from an international development organization by taking their expertise in youth empowerment and translating this for other audience segments. Families and moms in particular are key targets for an organization that is committed to helping individuals find ways to bring commitment to cause into their daily lives. Weight Watchers opens a new audience segment to the organization.
In the work that our VP Strategy, Cause and Public Sector, Tracy Culleton does, she is constantly challenged to evaluate fit and truly understand the values of the organizations when exploring potential partnerships.
“Values of the organization must be fully aligned for a partnership to be considered authentic. While Weight Watchers has made a commitment to inspire and support people to make a lasting change to become healthy, this is arguably very different from WE Charity’s support for communities that are struggling to establish stable food sources for basic survival.”
Through these respective pivots, an opportunity for partnership has come, yet the business systems to support the narrative has gaps that leads me to conclude the end consumer will not connect with this cause partnership. I hope to be proven wrong.
This is not the first time we have written about the importance of authenticity here at TACK10. That is because it is the foundation for success in any partnership. Before embarking on a cause partnership, take a hard look and identify the commitment that you can stand behind in every aspect of your business. Ensure you are rooted in choosing a cause because it is the right thing to do and the rest will follow.
EVP and Partner
From the Vancouver 2010 Olympics to Free the Children, RBC to Telus and PotashCorp to Deloitte; Laura’s teams have introduced a new way to connect and drive engagement for over 40 leading brands. Laura’s passion and expertise is pushing brands and properties to think past the status quo and develop meaningful strategic partnerships is fundamental to driving maximum value from partnerships.