As I mentioned in my previous post, a little negativity about a certain brand or product can hurt much more than a lot of praise. Therefore, I think that companies are constantly looking for ways to decrease customer dissatisfaction and increase a positive reputation in the eyes of consumers. This is where “partnering up with a social cause” can be highly beneficial, not only for themselves, but also for us, as designers who may be commissioned to design for these partnerships.
When I was considering my options for a Master’s thesis/project campaign, some additional thoughts came to mind regarding my option to “partner up with a social cause.” If, for example, I chose to focus my campaign on the Korea Tourism Organization, I would not be in a position to rebrand the entire organization, nor would I want to. However, a joint venture between the Korea Tourism Organization and a charity or globally conscious social cause could be mutually beneficial. It would draw the attention of all those involved in each organization to the other side, and it would additionally spark the interest of anyone concerned about either.
LiveStrong with Cancer (research)
Take the LiveStrong Foundation for instance. LiveStrong partners a brand, Lance Armstrong, with a social cause, cancer research. Armstrong uses his already deep fan base to reach out and provide support for cancer research. And all those who have ever had cancer, or know someone who has, can be drawn in to the LiveStrong Foundation as additional fans and supporters of Lance Armstrong. Here is one athlete whose reputation will be difficult to tarnish due to the good he does for those in need. The same can be said for any celebrity, rock star, or company that partners with a social cause. By reaching out to help others, it becomes more difficult to dislike a brand or individual. Consumer respect grows when it becomes apparent that “it’s not all about you.” Contrast that with companies or individuals who only seem to be out for “Number One” – like Wall Street perhaps – and it becomes easy to hate them.
A mutually beneficial relationship
The difficult thing I think, is partnering a social cause and an organization into a mutually beneficial relationship. The two must have some sort of relevance for the other and each should support the other. For example, I wouldn’t want to partner the Korea Tourism Organization with cancer research, as the two aren’t relevantly related. Why would I want to use cancer to promote tourism? Most people wouldn’t find that appropriate. However, if I partnered the KTO with a cause that promoted environmental protection, or global eco-friendly technology, it would be much easier to find relevance in their relationship. If tourists began to view Korea as a “green” destination, or as a country that seriously focused on developing “green” technology, it would draw in tourists from all over the world who are interested in either branch of that partnership.
Therefore, I think that any company, organization, or individual who is willing to “partner up with a social cause” can open up a world of benefits and possibilities. And if we as designers have an opportunity to design for one of these partnerships, we should jump at it. The combination of two individual, yet related entities in design can be a wonderful merger, and can open our minds to a world of possibilities, if we allow ourselves to be stretched as designers in that way.
What about you?
Do you think designing for a social cause is a worthwhile endeavor? How much better is it to partner a social cause with a famous brand, and do design for the two-in-one? Does anyone have any experience doing this? What did you think about it?