ICS Magazine

Find and Embrace a Just Cause

July 15, 2003

What does your company stand for? If it’s largely to make more big-time money and pay yourself an outrageous salary and perks, don’t count on employees, let alone your customers and prospects, to believe in you.

But companies with a cause – how they’re making the community a better place – can create emotional connections with employees and customers. Those employees and customers in turn tend to become the company’s advocates and biggest supporters – its evangelists, if you will.

A cause is usually not the same as a mission/vision statement. A cause should be simple yet meaningful. It is something to believe in and rally around, because a well-defined cause usually does the following:

  • Defines a company’s vision
  • Makes employees and management better
  • Generates measurable effects plus selfless actions, and
  • Polarizes the workplace.

    A cause is a plan to contribute to a noble effort to help your community. It’s a piece of someone’s soul. It gets people talking at a deeper level, using emotional building blocks. Authors Richard Cross and Janet Smith outline how “identity bonds” are formed between customer and company through employees in their book “Customer Bonding: 5 Steps to Lasting Customer Loyalty.”

    “Identity bonds are formed when customers admire and identify with values, attitudes, or lifestyle preferences that they associate with your brand or product,” Cross and Smith write. “Customers form an emotional attachment based on their perception of those shared values.” It goes without saying that these responses are multiplied when your employees are involved.

    Emotional attachment is at the heart of creating employee and customer evangelists. This volunteer force of customers and employees spread the word and convince friends, family and colleagues that your products and services are the best.

    Adopt a Charitable Cause
    Research shows that American consumers consistently support cause-related programs. Note that when given a buying choice between two products of equivalent price and quality:

  • 78 percent of adults said they’d be more likely to buy a product associated with a cause they care about.
  • 66 percent said they’d switch brands to support a cause.
  • 61 percent said they’d switch retailers to support a cause.
  • 54 percent would pay more for a product that supported a cause they care about.

    The survey also reported that 80 percent of Americans prefer doing business with companies that commit to a specific cause for a long time period rather than those that opt for multiple, short-period causes.

    Create and Demonstrate Your Organization’s Cause
    What is your company’s cause? More importantly, how do your employees and customers say you are helping your community?

    Define local “just cause” issues that affect your employees, customers and prospects. Build plans to demonstrably and systematically support those issues. Some ideas to consider include your local food bank; a foster child agency; Toys for Tots; a local scholarship program; Big Brothers; local housing programs for severely ill children, etc. When it comes to a cause, challenge yourself and your organization to think big.