A digital approach towards Conscious Capitalism_

marketing with a message

Marketing with a message, or ‘conscious capitalism’ as it is often known, is a philosophy which centres around the belief that businesses should take a stand and support important social, political and environmental issues. This practice has become increasingly prevalent since the advent of social media because brands now have vast online platforms through which to promote their charitable endeavours and to use their brand reputation to raise awareness towards worthwhile causes.

Businesses are increasingly encouraged to emphasise a ‘we’ rather than ‘me’ mentality and to cultivate a working environment which values its employees, customers and investors, as well as society in general and the environment. Marketing with a message enables businesses to establish trust with their target market and to solidify their reputation as a brand which cares about more than just their bottom line. By doing so, brands can inspire and engage their stakeholders. As a matter of fact, according to the 2013 Cone Communications-Echo Global report, 94% of respondents will be more likely to trust a ‘conscious’ company, 93% will be more loyal to the company, and 91% of global consumers are likely to switch brands to one that supports a good cause, given similar price and quality[1].

However, when it comes to marketing with a message, it is important that brands recognise what consumers value most. Rather than simply issuing politically charged Tweets with no unifying message, customers need to understand what your brand stands for and which causes you are committed to supporting. Consequently, we have created the following article which illustrates some of the best brands who market with a message and how you can implement similar practices within your existing marketing campaigns.

Successful examples of marketing with a message

Whole foods

According to Nielsen’s “Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility”, 43% of consumers would spend more for products and services that support worthwhile causes[2]. One of the brands which have executed this practice most effectively is Whole Foods Market. In fact, the CEO and co-founder of Whole Foods Market, John Mackey, actually wrote a book on the topic!

Whole Foods has a very decentralised business structure where regional and local managers are granted a greater autonomy on what products to sell and which vendors and suppliers they use. In this manner, Whole Foods encourages promotion and advancement from within. Moreover, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio at Whole Foods is capped at 20-to-1 to promote a fair working environment. This is particularly notable when you consider that the CEO-to-worker pay ration averages over 200-to-1 for many larger corporations. By doing so, Whole Foods ensure that their executives are well-paid, but so are all of their employees. Talking about this concept of ‘conscious capitalism’ within an interview, John Mackey advocated how;

“It’s important to note that conscious capitalism is not to be confused with corporate social responsibility (CSR). Conscious capitalism puts higher purpose and creating value for the community stakeholder at the core of every business decision rather than being added on later as a program to thwart criticism or help manage a business’ reputation”[3].

According to Mackey, this type of conscious capitalism is built on four basic pillars:

“Higher purpose, stakeholder integration, conscious leadership, and conscious culture and management. The four are interconnected and mutually reinforcing. The tenets are foundational; they are not tactics or strategies. They represent the essential elements of an integrated business philosophy that must be understood holistically to be effectively manifested. Higher purpose and core values are central to a conscious business, and all the other tenets connect back to these foundational ideas”[4].

Other brands who follow this practice of marketing with a message include Tom’s Shoes who give away a pair of shoes for every pair they sell, Divine Chocolate who ensure that the cocoa farmers who help create their products also own 44% of the company and The Body Shop who help their suppliers in remote locations and developing countries to form business cooperatives so they can have a sustainable living.

Starbucks free coffee groundsAnother major company who market with a message are Starbucks who are well known for supporting environmental causes. For instance, in 1999 Starbucks launched a “Grounds for Your Garden” project to provide free used coffee grounds to anyone who wanted them for composting. Furthermore, in 2006 Starbucks started using recycled paper in its cups to reduce waste and in recent years they have unveiled a plan to donate all unsold food from their stores to local food banks. This practice of marketing with an environmental and socially conscious message has worked wonders for Starbuck’s international brand reputation as well as for their bottom line. They are widely regarded as the biggest coffee chain in the world, and they spent less than 2% of their revenue on marketing last year; thereby demonstrating the promotional power of marketing with a message[5].

And they’re not alone. A study undertaken by Raj Sisodia investigated 28 companies who promoted ‘conscious capitalism’ via investments in community projects, reducing their environmental impact and promoting a high level of customer service which equally compensated their employees. Over the years 1996-2011,18 of these publicly traded companies outperformed the S&P 500 index by a factor of 10.5[6]. This study highlights how marketing with a message benefits all parties involved. Well treated employees are more productive due to boosted morale. Their positive approach transfers into better customer service which encourages return custom and recommendations from consumers. In this manner, marketing with a message benefits everyone; businesses, employees, customers and the community in general.

How to begin marketing with a message

Your company can begin to implement these marketing with message practices within your existing business model today. Investigate local projects in your community which gel with your brand. For example, if you are a childcare brand, then you could support local children’s charities. Similarly, a retail chain could donate clothes to local homeless charities. Start small, promote your activities via social media and encourage your customers to get involved via fundraising campaigns and sponsored events. From here you can set up annual and biannual events, cross-collaboration with similarly minded businesses and so much more! Learn more about the rewarding impacts of marketing with a message by contacting our Cloud Ten team today.


[1] minutehack.com

[2] investopedia.com

[3] forbes.com

[4] forbes.com

[5] fool.com

[6] hbr.org