More than anyone, Jack Bonner knows that corporations have now learned and more than ever practicing advocacy, both from internal scources-workers, vendors, shareholders to outside third parties such as community and civic groups.t. Companies are now involved in a lot of socio-political issues and are not afraid to show their support for their chosen advocacy. Studies show that Americans are more likely to purchase from a company that shares their opinions on social issues and are less likely to purchase from a company that doesn’t. In other words, it’s no longer just about whether a person likes the product or service, it’s about whether they like the company’s stance on certain relevant issues.
To get their point across, companies use advocacy advertising to present paid messages in support of a particular social, environmental, or political cause. While companies often promote causes of interest to company owners, leaders, and employees, the common purpose of this approach is to support causes that help the business and to appeal to potential customers who believe in the cause. Jack Bonner discusses his picks on some great corporate advocacy examples.
A popular example of corporate advocacy is Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, whose support for same-sex marriage was translated into a core element of Starbucks’ business culture. When Starbucks announced its support for Washington’s state’s referendum supporting same-sex marriage, the National Organization for Marriage urged for a boycott of the coffee chain. A shareholder even complained that that the company had lost customers because of its support for gay marriage. Howard Schultz was not even fazed; he stressed that it was about respecting diversity, not the bottom line. He responded by saying that not every decision is an economic decision and that the company even experienced a 38% shareholder return when they supported same-sex marriage. He then concluded to the complaining shareholder, and I quote, “If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38% you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares in Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.” This led to cheers and applause from everyone present.
Another great example is Diet Coke’s Red Dress Online initiative. The awareness campaign was aimed at drawing attention to women’s heart disease. It was a collaboration with Heart Truth and emphasized that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. Along with name recognition in support of a good cause, Diet Coke stands out as a product intended to provide a “better” nutritional alternative for pop drinkers.
Whatever advocacy your company decides to support, make sure that it is in line with your company’s core values and that the cause is something the whole company—including owners, stakeholders, and employees—can get behind It will be difficult to launch a campaign that your own employees don’t believe in. Take the time to study the different advocacies out there and decide what you want to support. It is best to have a written set of parameters and a defined process to decide which issues your company will pursue and what your position will be.