The Korn Group

  • In time for the festive season – All about corporate giving

    • December 18, 2018
    • Neer Korn
    "Most companies in Australia are intent on doing social good, on giving back to the community. Regardless of how much they do or the reasons behind their corporate giving what is clear from our research is that chances are their consumers are unaware of their efforts."

    For our most recent study Doing Good: Guidelines for Corporate Giving we asked consumers to consider a brand or company, any will do, and write down anything they know about their corporate giving program. We then asked them to do a bit of research and Google their choice to learn more about them. The results were striking. Invariably they were all left pleasantly surprised and with a far better impression of their chosen company.

    Whether this matters or not depends on the intent of the company or brand’s charitable work. If the aim is to give back for purely altruistic purposes, then this is by the by. If, however, there is a strategic element behind the giving, with a view to enhancing the brand’s or company’s image then for the most part this is lost in very low awareness.

    Not surprisingly perhaps Australians don’t expect much from corporations. They recognise that these entities exist to make a profit and it is not their role to enhance the community they profit from. “I think that’s what business is, so if they aren’t doing social good, I’m not going to judge them for that,” said one young woman.

    They also strongly believe that when companies do give, they do so for selfish reasons. They assume it is done as a marketing exercise, to enhance their public image. Many are convinced that the reason for giving is to gain a tax deduction, the assumption being that it costs them nothing to do so. A typical comment was, “At the end of the day, it’s a tax write-off, they’re not actually spending money because they are getting the majority back as deductions.”

    But in an ideal world corporations and brands would play a positive role in society, just as individuals wish to play a role in making their world a better place. “We’re not asking them to compromise their own profits or anything, but just to assist,” said a Melbourne man. “If it’s being very productive and very economically affluent then it should share that.”

    But they are adamant it is the company that should pay for it, not the consumer. Ideally, they would redirect the obscene salaries of CEOs for this purpose. As consumers, however, few are willing to actually pay more for a good cause, unless the amount is negligible and everything else, such as quality, taste etc, is equal. “I’d say 90 percent of my decisions are money driven, financial,” admitted a Sydney mum, “What can I afford, what fits into the budget, where am I going to find a saving?”

    So, what was their message for companies and brands wishing to do the right thing? There were many lessons in the study but here are a few to consider:

    Giving isn’t just about money:

    Being a good corporate citizen means many things. For example, consumers believe that companies that take a stand on an important social issue makes them good citizens.

    Giving money to a cause or charity is nice, but not the be all and end all. “I don’t think you have to give all your money,” explained a Melbourne woman, “I would also maybe argue that doing good could be something to do with like diversity in an ad campaign or something other than money.” Dove is seen as a good corporate citizen for all its work on self-esteem and inner beauty.

    Most impactful of all were organisations renowned for treating their staff well. As one person expressed: “It should go more back into helping their loyal employees … give it back to the employees or a family of a long-term employee that’s got a child that’s really sick and they’re going to help that person.”

    The most oft cited organisation in our research, somewhat surprisingly, was JB Hi-Fi. Consumers seem to be aware of its policy enabling staff to contribute both time and money to their favourite charity. “They offer to the employees to champion their own,” Explained a young man. “To go out there and get involved with the charity and champion it and then come back to them, and they’ll give a certain amount of money, you know.”

    Helping consumer do good by doing nothing:

    Giving which involves the consumer, and asks them to play a part, while in actual fact doing very little, is spoken of highly. It’s giving consumers kudos for making the right choice and helping out, leaving them with a positive glow which the brand is responsible for. The most popular example in our study was Grill’d which provides customers with a bottle top to place according to their favourite charity, choosing between three local ones. Consumers get to feel good when all they’ve done is purchase a burger. It’s the physical involvement in the decision-making process. As one consumer explained, “You’re physically putting a bottle cap in a jar, so it’s more of a physical thing.”

    Another good example cited was supermarkets encouraging shoppers to collect their receipts and earn sporting equipment for their school. Dominoes roundup is viewed similarly. Asking consumers to round up their bill by a few cents is an easy decision and a resonating one.

    A cause and effect:

    Consumers gravitate towards giving that is visible and where the results are tangible. These examples benefit from a higher awareness and provide the brand/company with something they become renowned for. The Westpac rescue helicopter’s role is clear, and it is considered to be a significant investment with obvious outcomes. A trip to Bunnings has become synonymous with the sausage sizzle greeting customers at the stores’ entrance. While providing little more than shade and a BBQ, Bunnings has become renowned for supporting local charities, and all consumer have to do is purchase a sausage. And it impacts positively on their image, as this customer relates: “I previously would’ve preferred to go to a small hardware whereas because Bunnings do support the community even though they’re not privately owned I still feel loyal to them, and the staff always seem to be happy.”

    Think Local, act local:

    Unless a brand is truly international, Australians are much more receptive to those giving back in their host country. Overall there is a mood towards helping our own, with support for foreign aid ever low and a wish those funds were diverted to helping Australia’s needy first. They are particularly keen on brands/companies stepping into areas where governments seem to be lacking in their efforts. Homelessness, domestic violence and poverty are issues which concern Australians greatly and offer excellent opportunities for brands to become involved. “You know, if they were going to prop up the homeless people in Australia and create accommodation for them,” expressed a retired man. “Well I’d be in that as opposed to giving it to Vietnam schools.” The lady beside him concurring, “I reckon look into the needs of the immediate area or the community more.”

    Consumers are perplexed that brands don’t tell them about their good work and charitable efforts. They wonder why these have gone under the radar for so long. “It’s funny because companies are doing great things, but we don’t know about them. And you can’t find the information unless you go and looking for it,” lamented a middle-aged woman. Another adding, “I think they should promote more, what they do, yeah.” Having said that, they won’t tolerate any boasting, that being unAustralian. So, tread carefully.

    Australian consumers’ message on corporate giving is that they want brands to be good corporate citizens just as they are conscious of being good private citizens. It’s good news and a win-win-win scenario even if the brand benefits. And in an era of scandal and diminishing trust, a good news story from corporations would be a welcome relief