Mike Fromowitz
Feb 17, 2012

Can Marketers Do Well By Doing Good?

People love to say they hate advertising.  I think we've earned this bad reputation by not caring enough about what our messages say and how they can effect the choices people make in their lives. ...

Can Marketers Do Well By Doing Good?

People love to say they hate advertising.  I think we've earned this bad reputation by not caring enough about what our messages say and how they can effect the choices people make in their lives. I believe that advertising has a responsibility to be more informative, more relevant, more reliable, more honest.

Our industry has unique access to shape our culture – and now, more than ever, do corporations and individuals who can harness the power of advertising and media.

And yet, whenever I enter into a discussion on the subject of using advertising as a mechanism for social good, it often brings up some skepticism. Should corporations simply maximize profits and let the invisible hand do its wonders, or do they have some obligation to be good corporate citizens as well?

The power that advertising holds, and its potential, is largely misunderstood. Few advertisers and their ad agencies recognize the power they hold in the shaping of public opinion and in restricting some options and enabling others.

Cause marketing can create and effect positive change

Social media has accelerated advertisers’ access to community feedback and to what people think, feel and do. The Internet has helped us enter into an exciting time when the power of individual voices can create and effect positive real change.

If more companies considered “Cause Marketing” as a strategy, and if we attempted to achieve positive messages while still selling products,  marketers and their ad agencies could be taking huge steps toward contributing to a better world.

A recent research report conducted by JWTIntelligence/EthosJWT stated:  “More corporations are starting to shift their business models, integrating social issues into their core strategies. The aim is to create shared value, a concept that reflects the growing belief that generating a profit and achieving social progress are not mutually exclusive goals.”

One of the most interesting developments in the area of social good is the rise of ‘shared value’. “By putting social issues at the center of their strategy, brands can benefit their business, their customers and society in general,” says Tony Pigott, global director of EthosJWT. “By reconsidering products and target demographics, forging partnerships with local groups and improving productivity in the value chain, companies can become a force for positive change while enhancing their long-term competitiveness.”

Findings from the survey included the following:

  • Consumers believe corporations should do more good: 9 in 10 respondents felt that “Companies need to do more good, not just less bad.”

  • Brands have a responsibility toward local communities: 84% of adults across three major markets agreed with the statement: “Brands and large corporations have a responsibility to improve the local communities in which they do business.”

The power of an “integrated” cause marketing campaign.

When Chipotle Mexican Grill, the fast-food marketer that operates 1.230 restaurants throughout the US, Canada and England, began thinking about ways to promote their brand, they decided it was important for the company to promote improvements to the country’s food supply, and to create an awareness for the need to make change to unsettling farm practices.

They created “Back To The Start”, an upbeat animated commercial, with puppets to show a family farmer switching first to factory farming, then back to the sustainable approach of turning animals out to pasture. After showing the film first online and then in movie theaters, the company decided to turn it into its first national commercial.

The film was released on the Chipotle Web site’s YouTube page last August, and has been viewed more than 4.4 million times. It was also shown on nearly 10,000 theater screens last fall. “Back to the Start” was also rated one of the top 10 advertisements in Internet buzz in 2011.

Chipotle at the Grammy Awards

The two-minute ad was given a major boost when it appeared on the Grammy Awards telecast. Twitter lit up with praise for the message, with one commenter on YouTube even saying the bit made her cry.  And viewers were urged to download, via iTunes, the song that accompanies it — a Willie Nelson rendition of “The Scientist” by Coldplay—that has been downloaded about 25,000 times so far.  60 cents from each 99-cent download has gone to Chipotle’s foundation.

The proceeds from the downloads are to go to the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation. Chipotle’s founder, Steve Ells, started the foundation last year to encourage sustainable farming methods and family farming. A major selling point for the fast-food chain, whose 1,230 outlets brought in nearly $2.3 billion in sales last year, has been the fresh and sustainably grown ingredients, including pork and beef, in its burritos and tacos.

Chipotle, which does not employ an advertising agency, devised its marketing approach based on its own research, which it said showed that 75 percent of its 800,000 daily customers came for the taste, value and convenience of its food. Those are positive reasons, but expected for any food franchise that wants to be successful.

So to get customers more passionately involved, the company decided it “needed to have a general, higher-level message and to tell the story in a more approachable way,” said Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle’s chief marketing officer. “And we wanted to make the message interesting and entertaining,” he added.

Chipotle believed it had the right message already in its emphasis on more natural food. The company had shifted to more naturally grown produce and to beef, pork and chicken produced without antibiotics. It then set a goal of trying to make its customers more aware of sustainable ways to farm.

The commercial, directed by Johnny Kelly of London-based Nexus Productions, can be viewed here:


A behind the scenes Video of the Back to Chipotle also created an eight-minute behind the Scenes Video that shows the intricate model-making and set-creating efforts by Mr. Kelly’s team during the year it took them to complete the film. Among those he hired was Gary Cureton, an animator who had worked on Wallace & Gromit, the British animated film series.

You can view the Behind the Scenes video here:


Over the last two years, the Denver-based company has donated more than $2 million to groups like Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and the Nature Conservancy. At the end of last year, the foundation presented its first major award, of $250,000, to Farm Aid, which was founded by Mr. Nelson and other well-known singers to promote family farms.

Here’s another spot for Chipotle:


I applaud Chipotle and all those behind this wonderful campaign. May it live a long life.

Should you be considering cause marketing?

Chipotle is a great example of “cause marketing”. Cause marketing, when done well, has huge potential. A business gains favorable public relations, improved customer relations, increased sales and additional marketing opportunities. Consumers get to buy something they need or want, while contributing to a “greater good” at the same time.

Before a business engages in a cause marketing campaign, they should be aware of a few pitfalls. First, the cause must resonate with the target audience and align with the organization’s brand and business. Second, while consumers prefer to support a social or charitable cause, they necessarily won’t pay more to participate. And finally, a campaign must provide real benefit to a cause. The charitable benefit cannot be too small, nor can the campaign turn into a carnival-like promotion. It must stay true to its core value of providing a social benefit.

Cause marketing is not just for big brand marketers. There is a huge opportunity for small businesses to gain market share, increase sales and build customer loyalty. A word of caution: stay true to the business’s core values and take sufficient time to build relationships and campaigns that key stakeholders can embrace.

There’s a moral to this Blog post

For those who do not yet believe in cause marketing, consider this: the story of the Two Wolves.


One evening an old Cherokee (a Native American) told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil -  It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed,  arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false  pride, superiority, and ego.

"The other is Good - It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity,  humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth,  compassion and faith."

The  grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee replied, "The one you feed."

Mike Fromowitz



Related Articles

Just Published

14 hours ago

How to prepare for hybrid commerce: Chinese ...

As consumers seamlessly hop between physical and online, brands are expected to provide real-time stock information and personalised experiences across all of their touchpoints. But they must demonstrate a value exchange to consumers to collect the data they need.

15 hours ago

Data shows brands don’t need social media accounts ...

Data from a Jing Daily report shows that luxury brands no longer rely on their own social media accounts in China with more engagement relying on KOLs.

15 hours ago

Apple debuts 2022 Chinese New Year film (clear some ...

The company's offering for this year is a 23-minute epic—shot on iPhones—about the making of an epic film within the film, also shot on iPhones.

16 hours ago

How women’s health brands communicate on social ...

Female founders of women’s health brands say censorship makes it challenging to properly address women’s concerns.