Corporate social responsibility has been all the rage for years now. Corporations in many fields are almost expected to prove that their interests are one with the common good and that they’re not just money-grubbing, profiteering institutions. Corporate donations have always been popular, and get companies a tax write-off, but that doesn’t really do much good to the company. Performing feats of goodwill that benefit both the cause and the company (and often create more social good in the process) is encompassed in cause marketing.
Being in the life science tools industry I was surprised when I read a recent Harvard Business Review article that referenced some numbers on the prevalence of cause marketing from a 2010 a PRWeek/Barkely PR cause marketing survey. As of 2010, two-thirds of all companies reported engaging in cause marketing, and 97% of marketing executives believed cause marketing to be a valid business strategy! If you look around the life sciences that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case. Given, simple self-reporting that your company engages in cause marketing is a low target as it doesn’t require that the cause marketing effort be of significant size or visibility.
Regardless of the reasoning for the survey numbers, it lead me to think that cause marketing is indeed under-leveraged in the life sciences. I know of only a handful of such efforts across the industry – the first one that comes to mind is Labnet’s manufacture of Susan G. Komen branded pipettes (which don’t even seem to be available anymore). In a way it does strike me as odd. Certainly there are many charitable or non-profit organizations funding compelling biomedical research that would be great cause marketing partners for life science tools companies. Think about it: How compelling would it be to a life science researcher to be able to purchase a product or buy from a company that supports life science research, maybe even research in their own field? There are certainly many potential opportunities to do just that … but not many laboratory tools companies seem to be making the effort.
While I wouldn’t suggest diving into cause marketing head first because of my admittedly anecdotal musings, it does seem that cause marketing may be an opportunity ripe for the picking by life science tools companies.