An Advertising Age article called Yes, There Is an ROI for Doing Good examines the ROI for cause marketing. It discusses the positive returns (business results, not just philanthropic achievements) for some great philanthropic efforts like:
- Campbell’s Labels For Education
- General Mills’ Box Tops For Education
- Haagen Dazs’ support for honey bees
- McDonald’s Ronald McDonald House Charities
- Sears’ Heroes At Home
- Lexus’ Environmental Challenge
Here’s how the article starts:
Surely all the companies investing in cause marketing must be earning points in afterlife. Unfortunately, under both Delaware law and the tenets of most major religions, corporations technically don’t have souls and hence aren’t eligible for heaven.
My take: I agree with the article’s premise that these type of efforts, while they may be great for society, need to provide some business benefits to the company. Otherwise, corporations would be better served to give the money back to their shareholders who could use the funds to meet their personal philanthropic objectives.
But, I think that the article underestimates the ROI of these efforts by not looking at the impact that they have on employees. While I don’t have any “hard numbers” or analysis to back this up, I would hypothesize that the impact on employees could even provide the biggest return for these types of efforts. If the effort instills or amplifies the sense of purpose that employees see in their company, then I can imagine a lot of positive results: lower turnover, higher commitment, and a positive sense of the company that shines through to customer interactions.
This has a couple of implications: 1) Customers (and therefore the bottom line) are likely beneficiaries of cause marketing efforts; and 2) Good cause marketing efforts need to actively engage employees.
The bottom line: Think strategically about your causes.