Top CSR campaigns of 2011

Earlier this year, Mattel endured a synchronized attack from Facebook users and activists when Greenpeace USA coordinated efforts to inform consumers about the rainforest deforestation that Mattel’s packaging supplier, Asia Pulp and Paper - contributes to. As part of the theatrics, Greenpeace created a video that had Ken breaking up with barbie over her use of paper sourced from rainforests. The video went viral and the story went global. The attack, including videos, theatrical window dressings, and an assault on Barbie’s Facebook page, Mattel was forced to reevaluate their sustainability standards. Social media gives consumers and organizations the platform  to openly support their favorite brands, but with that they are also given the power to openly protest against brands. Companies taking conscious steps to be transparent give back are rewarded with accolades and new business, while companies behaving badly are scorned in online communities like Facebook and Twitter.

While the Mattel incident is an extreme example, companies are still looking for ways to proactively evaluate their triple bottom line, by making changes to both their internal operations and through corporate social responsibility campaigns. For the first time in 23 years, Pepsi skipped advertising during the Super Bowl and opted for a CSR campaign in 2010. We recently launched Toshiba’s Helping the Helpers contest to help non-profit organizations, and realized that not all Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) campaigns are created equally. Here’s our take on some notable CSR campaigns of 2011.

Nike “Back for the Future”

In the future illustrated in the 1989 movie Back to the Future II, everyone was wearing lit-up Nikes with power-laces, riding hover boards, and driving in flying cars. Now, the future is here. In September, Nike launched the 2011 Nike Mag sneaker with the sole purpose of raising money for The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Nike hosted a 10-day auction on eBay for 1,500 pairs of special edition 2011 Nike shoes inspired by Back to the Future II. While only a determined, wealthy few won auctions, this CSR initiative reached millions. Over the course of the 10-day auction, the Foundation’s Facebook page added almost 10,000 new fans, and Nike’s videos have received over 5 million views on YouTube. They ultimately raised $9.4 million for Parkinson’s Research. Great Scott, that’s heavy.

Chipotle “Support American Small Farms”

Within the growing local food movement, consumers are looking for companies that share their desire to support local small businesses. In September, Chipotle released a music video for a Willie Nelson cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” which exposed the perils of factory farming from a farmer’s point of view. Another video was released promoting Chipotle’s Cultivate Foundation, which addresses the issues of the disappearance of family farms. With these videos, Chipotle is doing an impressive job aligning themselves with the local food movement while engaging with and educating their customers. While Chipotle isn’t necessarily trying to end factory farming, they are actually taking steps to help small farmers. This summer, they committed to using more than 10 million pounds of local produce in their restaurants. Through their “Food With Integrity” platform, Chipotle buys more naturally raised meat than any other restaurant in the country.

Coca Cola “Artic Home”

During the holidays, Coca Cola brings their brand to life with curious polar bears chugging down bottles or by releasing special can designs in what has become a tradition for Coca Cola advertising. In a bold and well-intentioned move, advertising giant Coca-Cola switched out their iconic red cans with a seasonal white polar bear can to raise awareness and money for the World Wildlife Fund. This seems like a great campaign right? After only one month on the shelves, Coke was forced to stop distributing the white cans after numerous customer complaints that they thought the Coke tasted different in the white cans or because they confused the white canes with Diet Coke. The campaign has raised a lot of buzz, but certainly not the outcome that they were hoping for.

DGWB Perspective

While CSR and cause-marketing programs have been around for a while, more companies are looking to develop CSR campaigns to strengthen their consumer relationships. The best CSR campaigns engage with customers on an emotional level, communicate their shared values, and validate their claims with genuine actions.

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