Corporate Social Responsibility

Facts & Tips from Hybrid's Director of Strategy

Here we are back in the alley for the second episode of Back Alley Marketing.

It’s garbage day out here. Today I want to talk about CSR. What I mean by CSR is corporate social responsibility or a charitable cause or good deeds connected to your business. Now the idea itself is not really a new thing. I mean, Tom’s have been doing the buy one, give one thing for a long time. They pioneered that model and B Corp’s are really on the rise. Those are certified in a way that indicates they balance profit and purpose.

So what we’re talking about here is really something that goes beyond just charity. We’re talking about doing good as part of your business operations. Some of you might be thinking that just your business existence is enough to do that. You create jobs, you pay taxes to support the community, but that’s really kind of an outdated way of thinking. Now, why would a cannabis marketer be talking to you about this? Well, there’s a few reasons. First in the cannabis game, we are constantly battling stigmas associated with what we do. So there’s the stigma behind cannabis use itself, of course, but there’s also the stigma associated with professionals in the cannabis industry. The cannabis industry leaders of 20 years ago were not exactly good actors so thanks El Chapo for ruining that for us. But then there’s also the need for cannabis businesses to show that they’re good actors in the community.

Now one way that our clients fight all these old stigmas is through really awesome corporate social responsibility programs. They want to be able to show that they have a positive impact on the community. Our dispensary partner, Lightshade, for example they have a whole portal on the website dedicated to just this purpose and all of the great causes they support. They’re good business filled with good people and they do really good things. I mean, I want to shop there. The cannabis industry as a whole really gets that doing good is really, really important. It’s not just a coincidence that if you’re driving around Denver, almost every adopt a highway sign is sponsored by a cannabis business.

The next thing is that CSR programs really are an opportunity to be a differentiator for your business, cannabis industry for sure, but in any industry. There’s been studies that show that when you have two side-by-side products similar in price and substance, people will choose one that has a good cause associated with it over one that doesn’t 90% of the time.

And then of course we live in the digital age so you need pics or it didn’t happen. There’s absolutely nothing wrong about telling the story of the positive impact your business has. So it makes great content for blogs. It’s something you can talk about other than just promoting your products and services and it really helps build loyalty and it helps convert people to brand evangelists. And that’s what we’re trying to get to eventually. Just wait, we will make you love us. So hopefully I’ve convinced you this is something that you really should consider doing. So how do you do it? Well, start with a cause. If you’re able to align your cause to your brand, that’s even better. I’ll give you an example. I used to work for a supplement company called Mutant and Mutant made sports supplements for a really high level, competitive bodybuilders.

We supported pit bull rescues and it was the perfect fit. Pit bulls, they’re big, they’re a little scary, lots of muscle, but when you get to know them they’re really just lazy teddy bears like to sit around and nap just like bodybuilders. And when I think back about all my time with Mutant, I really established for that brand, the best content marketing program that industry has ever seen before or since. But you know what part of my time there I’m most proud, is helping out those dogs. So if you figured out a cause that align with your brand, next is choosing the organization, the charity you’re going to support. That comes second to choosing the cause, because as long as you have the cause locked down, you are able to swap out the actual organizations you support as you need to. And that happens from time to time.

But when that happens, you won’t have to start over with your messaging and everything. You can kind of just move in and out of the different organizations. From there, you really need to institutionalize this program. I mean, there needs to be something that isn’t just a one-off, it’s something that you do on an ongoing basis. There’s lots of different ways you can do this beyond donations. I mean, it could be maybe giving employees half a day off once a month to volunteer or whatever. It could be a percentage of a products profit. It could even be donations that your products or services, depending on what they are. There’s tons of different things you can do other than just writing a check.

Here’s my actionable tip for the day, send an email out, group message to your team. Just mention to them that you’re considering putting together some sort of program like this and see what kind of feedback you get. I guarantee you, it will be positive across the board. And there you have it, doing good for the sake of doing good should be enough of a reason for you. But just in case it’s not, hopefully I’ve laid out a pretty compelling case to have a CSR program of your own. That’s it from the alley.