The Giving Back Strategy

Sep 20, 2020

” We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill 

The current times are weighing heavy on the ability for many Americans to make ends meet, thereby making it difficult or impossible to make charitable contributions. In fact, a new Gallup poll reveals that just 73% of Americans have donated to a charity in the past year, the lowest percentage in 19 yearsOf those who have donated to charities in the past year, about 3 in 10, 30%, donated to COVID-19-related causes. 

Among the myriad causes that Americans donate to, poverty/homelessness—a social situation gaining unfortunate momentum during the current events – ranks second only to healthcare, according to 2018 AARP data. That places donations to poverty/homelessness charities ahead of education, the environment, and the economy, for starters. For many, giving back in the form of charitable donations supports their sense of community responsibility, and it serves to boost their sense of pride and self-worth.  And thus, it’s understandable that a sense of guilt or even shame exists when, for whatever reason, the ability to make meaningful contributions is preempted. This is true beyond not being able to make a cash donation, as the ability to do in-person volunteer work is hindered of late as well

So, while consumers may not be able to give as much as they like or in the ways they’d like, they can support brands that do.  

This is a strategic time for brands who have not previously done so, to attract new customers and deepen relationships with their existing customers through marketing communications that emphasize a giving back proposition. However, many brands were built on a foundation of giving back and paying it forward – “giving back” is simply baked into their DNA.  

TOMS Shoes is a good example of the give-back DNA brand. It’s hard to think about TOMS without thinking of their One for One campaign where, for every pair of shoes a consumer bought, another was donated to charity. Or there’s also Warby Parker, who does the same thing for eyeglasses with their Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program.

This type of business model is almost guaranteed to build positive brand perception, especially if the brand aligns with causes near and dear to their target audience. After all, if you buy and wear shoes, you can sympathize with someone that can’t afford to have a pair.  And, if you buy and wear glasses to improve your vision, your heart goes out to those who cannot afford glasses to see well. 

Another good example is The Honest Company, the CPG company that makes natural baby and beauty products, and is known for its Honest to Goodness program that includes donations of healthcare essentials and diapers to those in need. Truly compassionate brand positioning, and practically a relevant marketing strategy. Considering that the only two causes to achieve support among two in five women, according to AARP data, is #1 healthcare, and #2 poverty/homelessness, The Honest Company has clearly done its research prior to making Honest to Goodness an essential part of their brand identity. 

It’s important for brands to be relevant in the first place, as it is for them to remain relevant by being receptive and perceptive, by staying agile and evolution-minded. An example of this is the aforementioned TOMS brand, who has shifted from its One for One program to a current-times driven hyper-topical concern. Now, when you make a TOMS purchase, the company will give a third of its profits to the Global Giving Fund, a program created to support those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 health crisis. 

With so many more Americans in need nowadays, and fewer citizens able to help them, it’s good to see compassionate and strategic brands filling some of the void left by this economic arrhythmia.

Staying in touch with consumers is what savvy brands do. They stay on top of consumers behaviors, perceptions, and intentions. They make it their business to find out what’s important to their target consumers, what drives their purchase choices, and they build their appeal strategy around those findings. We design and conduct the custom research that delivers these insights and leverages the positioning, targeting, product development, and marketing strategies of these savvy businesses.    

~ Marketing Workshop