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Yes we scan: how about an app that reports brands’ support for causes?

Yes we scan: how about an app that reports brands’ support for causes?

Author: John Thompson, director and consultant at Changing Business

I’ve just read a fascinating article in The Economist about a new app called BuyPartisan that, via an iPhone’s camera, scans a product’s barcode and reports back to American consumers any political donations made by its manufacturers. For example, it turns out that “directors of Starbucks donated five times as much to Democrats as to Republicans; those of Apple gave 30 times as much.”

That got me thinking: how about an that reports back on companies’ CSR activities and support for charitable causes?

The likes of Business in the Community and Cone Communications regularly demonstrate that consumers are positively influenced by being aware of a brand’s connection with causes. However, a recent CAF report stated that consumers are largely ignorant of such commitments, with only around a third of people thinking those in the FTSE 100 make donations to charity every year, when most of them actually do. Despite that, only last year was DSC  reported as being “horrified” by the paucity of giving. Whilst some might call for a Harry Hill intervention, there could be an ‘appy’ ending in sight.

Yes we scan

Whilst I’d agree that many companies could do more, adding that I think fundraisers should be helping to persuade them to increase their levels of support, perhaps a little bit of modern tech could give consumers the power to influence corporate giving? With a quick scan, conscientious shoppers could find out the extent of a brand’s charitable support, its sustainability and be provided with  links to its charitable partners’ websites.  And then vote (even donate?) with their wallets.

As marketers strive to embed a sense of ‘purpose’ in the products they promote,  that extends beyond its constituent components and raw ingredients, I’m sure those with well established community credentials and solid brand ethics would welcome such an innovation. More importantly, it could also act as a catalyst for changing the behaviour and increasing the levels of community support from those yet to be enlightened.

But it’s consumers that arguably have the greatest direct influence on corporate giving and CSR, so an app such as this could  help promote the good whilst encouraging the bad and the ugly to do better.  Indeed, perhaps there will come a time when researchers ask a group of shoppers if they know anything about a brand’s charitable credentials the answer will be: Yes we scan.

John Thompson is a fundraising consultant with particular expertise in cause-marketing, sponsorship, strategy development, partnership marketing and executive recruitment. A blogger on UK Fundraising since 2006 with a background in corporate fundraising and public relations.

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