Social Engagement as a Vector of Brand Communication
Keywords:corporate social responsibility, cause-related marketing, social engagement, brand ethos, shared value
AbstractWhen brands use social actions to promote their own image, they are often seen with skepticism by many people, who believe that this approach is by default canceling any value whatsoever of the help offered by the brand. According to this view, one can no longer invoke an authentic sense of social responsibility envisaging the good of the community, when a team of PR and advertising professionals are attentively directing the brand’s social intervention, framing it in carefully chosen terms, with an eye to delivering a significant return on the investment for the company. In spite of the popularity of this view, there are some authors who claim otherwise: they believe that opposing brand communication to authentic social interest is actually a false dichotomy. They believe it is desirable for brands to have a lot to win from their NGO partnerships. By looking at the respective collaboration as a profit source for the business, they will be stimulated to get involved on a long-term basis and in a consistent manner. In other words, authentic interest towards a social cause and the search for self-promotion opportunities are not mutually exclusive. Corporate partnerships with the charity sector can be designed in a manner that would ensure gains for both sides. Yet, other authors raise serious questions regarding this (excessively) optimistic view on the possibility for shared value to be the result of such campaigns. Skepticism is fed by the inadequate solutions proposed by corporations for social problems, by the contradictions between their core activity and the good deeds they (pretend) to perform enthusiastically, their attempt to influence public policy according to their own interest, as well as their refusing objective and standardized evaluation. In this paper I look at the strongest arguments advanced by both sides of this debate.
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