Is social marketing for real? We often get this question during Q&A after our sessions at ESADE, in both the BBA and Executive Education programmes. Social marketing sounds appealing – especially to managers – but is it for real?
Let’s take a look at some big players recently mentioned by Knowledge@Wharton:
- Amy Chen wanted to put PepsiCo on the cutting edge of figuring out new business models that generate revenue while also having a social impact. She developed a plan for a social business incubator and was given one hour to pitch it to PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi. Thus was born Food for Good, an initiative whose mission is “to make healthy food physically and financially accessible for low-income families through sustainable, business-driven solutions”. It’s a fascinating social approach. In marketing terms, as Amy noted, “The task of selling oatmeal to someone is a lot harder than getting them to eat a bag of Doritos.”
- On March 16, Howard Schultz launched Starbucks’s “Race Together” campaign: the company’s baristas were asked to write the words “Race Together” on customers’ cups as a way to stimulate conversations on race issues. The final result: customers were skeptical, thinking there was an ulterior motive. But, as Prof. Kenneth Shropshire said, “Starbucks is the kind of enterprise that can really have an impact in the long run.” Schultz has no intention of giving up, and will keep trying to stimulate conversations and empathy.
- Under new CEO Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s recently announced that its US locations would stop selling chicken raised with antibiotics, in an effort to provide safe and healthy food. Difficulties are expected; McDonald’s is still expected to be the fastest and the cheapest. But Steve Easterbrook thinks of himself as an “internal activist”, eager to change the way his company is perceived through a strategic move that has been described as smart marketing that is also beneficial to customers’ health.
As leaders and internal activists, these three CEOs are surfing the markets, thinking ahead to understand what the market wants, and not being cocky by going into a wave that could crush them. Big players, big marketing, real impact.