Tag Archives: values

Should We Look At Brand Philanthropy In A New Way?


Whether brand philanthropy should be included as part of a marketing strategy has always been a contentious topic. Arguments from both sides can be valid and our opinion is that it really depends on a company’s intention in the first place. Part of my own previous work experience was managing the brand philanthropy for a large Irish financial company. As such, it was an element of our overall CSR Programme.

Part of my role was making sure that the general public knew about the good we were doing and as a result – how our brand was an integral part of the communities in which our people operated. At times, people would complain that we were focusing on promoting ourselves and wasting funds that could be donated.

My response was always that the awareness was mutually beneficial for us and the cause. Sharing information about what we did for the greater good worked both ways as the non-profit gained much-needed awareness of their cause and their impact. In my experience, many non-profits struggle with the communication of their impact on society which can cost them in the long-run.

A discussion about impact measurement that I had with a few fellow marketers recently has prompted me to write this post about looking at brand philanthropy in a new way.

First of all, let me say that I believe companies can reap the benefits of supporting causes without appearing to be self-serving by using community outreach methods. Ways to do this would include:

  • Considering causes that naturally align with the company’s core values
  • Undertaking initiatives that allow staff partake in the cause’s work
  • Developing internship programmes for local students to work with you
  • Assisting a non-profit partner’s operation through shared business learnings
  • Matching employees’ donations / time given to local causes

At the end of the day, it’s about a company being authentic. There are always ways to give back that does not look to be disingenuous – it’s about doing the right thing. If the public are prompted to talk about it, and do – all the better,

Good brand philanthropy means doing well and doing good.

The following might sound a little harsh but it is probably fair to say that brand philanthropy hasn’t really changed over the years for most companies. The model has been – make loads of money and give some away for reputational credit (and tax purposes) and get a photo in the press with a big cheque for awareness.

Unfortunately, at times, the business owner’s intention is not really to solve a societal problem but to look good, to optimise profits or just to ‘tick’ a giving box.. When the recipient is not measuring impact either – nothing is really changing.

Whereas one could argue that this is an acceptable arrangement between a local charity and a small business owner, the problem is whether it is really having a needle-moving impact on a societal issue?

Wouldn’t it be better if an SME owner, conscious that if the business is doing extremely well, they should be doing good on a larger scale? If so, genuine brand philanthropy would have a long-term impact on societal challenges, as the business grows.

How about looking at brand philanthropy in a new way. Imagine if companies focused on bringing innovative products to market that also reduced a social problem. For instance – could Tesla’s self-driving cars be seen as a social cause e.g. reducing accidents / road deaths. Could Apple use the iPhone for natural disaster alerts? Could these be seen as contributions towards societal welfare?

Here’s another idea for you. Look at TV stations – other than a TV Licence (in Ireland) most programming is paid for by advertising i.e. the viewer gets to see programmes for free. Would it be beyond the bounds of possibility for those advertisers to allocate a portion of their ad spend to promoting needy causes. It wouldn’t cost them anything extra and the general public would be instantly aware of the support given.

A new way of giving back through corporate citizenship

We all appreciate that brands today must try and communicate with their audience through a multitude of channels and try to maintain a relationship. More and more, people are expecting something in return for their relationship/giving their attention. A company, making a public commitment to good corporate citizenship is one way of doing that.

Another way for brands to give back would be to help others donate by harnessing the power of social media. What if a company, as part of a social media campaign, donated an amount based on the volume of engagement a message received online. Possibly in conjunction with the advertising idea above this is another way of bringing people the ability to make a difference – especially if they can’t afford to do so themselves.

By all accounts, the so-called millennials generation are forcing brands to focus on genuine philanthropy. As a result, we see evidence of more brands starting to focus on causes that matter. A win-win-win situation occurs as a result. A brand’s relationship with its customers is strengthened, the cause benefits financially and the public feel better about themselves.

If this is the case, then us marketers need to climb out of our regular thinking box of lead generation, social media, website redesign, offline campaigns etc. and try to understand our business’ impact on society better.

Tips for making philanthropy part of a business model

The future is bright for brands that make philanthropy (CSR) part of their business model and not just an element of marketing / HR. They could go about this by:

Aligning core mission and values

Simply put, companies can ensure that their product / service and their mission and values are aligned and can be measured from a societal point of view

Ensuring philanthropy is not a campaign

If you cannot measure the impact of your CSR activity then it is not worthwhile. Measuring the results of a brand campaign is not what is required by society

Not having a short-term focus on community outreach activity

Mutually beneficial programmes are just that – mutually beneficial for the community and the company. Making a lasting impact on a community will take a long time to reach an entire community so short-term blasts won’t achieve much.

Developing long-term budgets

Funding models that delve deeper and not broader will work the best. Grant giving that spreads the benefit across many causes will be less effective than one that focuses on lasting impact.

Creating a self-sustaining revenue stream

At least one goal of the collaboration should be to create a situation where the cause develops a self-sustaining revenue stream to ensure long-term impact.

Creating a workplace philanthropy programme

Give employees a say in what cause is to be partnered. Ensure the cause agrees transparency and accountability, agree a suitable project and measure outputs / outcomes separately.


Nothing has changed in that everything is in a state of constant change.

Wealth is being accumulated faster than ever, but also how it is deployed for social purposes is also changing. Brands are beginning to realise that they must contribute to solve societal issues if they are to survive. Donors are realising that new models are required to ensure that the impact from philanthropy is real.

A commitment to societal impact presents challenges for non-profits and for-profits alike and it needs to be tackled head-on, together. Not only will this benefit society in general but also the people that we want to help in the first place.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email, when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K

Focused brand development leads to less stress and more success.

brand development stress

Does your brand help compliment what your company stands for?

Is brand development a marketer’s playground or is it an essential element of successful business growth?

There were over 185,000 active enterprises in the private business economy in Ireland in 2012, with over 1.2 million persons engaged (CSO – Ireland). This represented a 2% decrease on 2011, which I suppose is not surprising in the prevailing economic climate at the time.

The Small Firms Association (SFA) published its annual survey report (Small Firms Outlook 2015) earlier this month. In it, they showed that 66% of businesses are growing, 28% are maintaining their business at stable levels, and just 6% state that they are still seeing a decline in business. Good news for the 94%, I reckon.

In a press release in relation to the report, SFA Director, Patricia Callan, welcomed the results, stating “we predict that 2015 will see strong growth remain in the economy in the order of 4-5% GDP growth.”  Of course, there were a lot of positive statements in the report, but the finding that we were interested in was that, ‘Investment in brand development is the priority for 41% of respondents, with 26% planning to make investments in staff’.

“Small firms have now moved from survival mode, to focusing on how they can grow their market share. Brand development and marketing are key parts of this strategy and hiring and retaining the right people is already emerging a problem in many sectors”, commented Ms Callan.

The business landscape, in Ireland, appears to be changing from being dominated by large corporations to more SMEs and start-ups. Within this changing environment, as highlighted by the SFA, there appears to be a realisation that focusing on brand development is an integral part of SME growth and one which requires investment. It is not just for the ‘big’ brands.

More than likely, however, SMEs will not have the resources (time or people) to hire a large ‘agency’ to spend months working on their brand development strategy. They want a strategy ASAP, with a purpose, and to be flexible, creative, authentic and totally linked to their vision and business mission. If the skills aren’t available ‘in-house’, external experts can fill this gap, and usually, in a cost effective way.

Let’s face it, brands are commonly started as a small idea, by people with vision and a purpose. They appreciate that they have to be flexible with their business operations, based on customer demand. Equally though, nowadays the same flexibility is required with regard to a brand. SMEs have to allow their audiences shape their brand to an extent that they are seen as brand partners rather than financial targets.

Your brand development can be your competitive advantage.

We’ve said on many occasions in previous blog posts that brands that treat their customers as human beings, and not wallets, will be the ones that will survive. Many trends (driven by technology), reinforce the notion that people are becoming more values-driven and more empathetic in their consumption habits and in their choices of places to work.

In a previous blog, (here), we suggested that people want to work for a company where the motivation is more than a monthly salary. More and more people appear to want to ‘give something back to society’ or at least help in the local community in some impactful way. As a result, instead of believing the advertising hype, many are looking at what a brand stands for and whether it matches their own values in any way. Companies are starting to realise that despite our attempts to make purely rational decisions, we are primarily driven by emotional motivations.

In our opinion, the future drivers of competitive advantage are going to be:

  • Authentic values (brands that genuinely care)
  • CSR activity (undertaken with a measureable impact)
  • Employee trust (energetic and pleasant staff)

Tips and Timesavers.

When defining your brand, stay in line with who you really are. For SMEs and start-ups, in the absence of prior experience, establishing who you are, can be a difficult task. Many of the larger corporations have teams of people looking after brand management. My own previous experience was in this area with 26 colleagues.

Outsourcing to O’C&K (disclosure – our company) is an option of course, but either way here are six steps to take, that should form the pillars of your brand development strategy.

  1. Determine what are you trying to achieve? (have a clear statement of what your brand is trying to do)
  2. Create a persona for your brand (personality, positioning and a storyline)
  3. Decide who is your target audience? (by the way – it is NOT ‘everyone’)
  4. Establish your competition. (can you ‘do’ it better ?)
  5. Determine what is the end goal and how do you get there? (be there at all customer touch-points)
  6. Keep monitoring your brand (measure your effectiveness through engagement)



So, to finish off, I’d just like to draw attention to the notion that sometimes, people like to use the word ‘reputation’ instead of ‘brand’. Usually this is because they believe that a brand relates to ‘selling’ and one’s reputation is above that. We say – ‘whatever’ – just make sure that it is you that’s telling your story because if you don’t, others will.

Your brand (reputation) – what is left when all else is taken away.

“We hope you have enjoyed our marketing tips and timesavers blog” – Aidan & Jim.

Would you like to be notified by email when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here.

Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we can grab a coffeet, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K


12 ways to start building authority, using your digital brand.

Digital Brands

“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.

Why SME owners need to manage their personal digital brand.

Managing your digital brand is as much a part of building a competitive positioning for your business as anything else. You may have the best business on the planet, but if it is not online and differentiated somehow, from others in your niche, you will find it hard to attract new clients.

Our own company (O’C&K), is still in its infancy, being 18 months old, and quite often my business partner and I have long, meandering conversations about what defines it (us). Our conversations revolve around the fact that with our experience, in the area of marketing communications, we really can be all things to all people. More and more however, we are realising how important it is to position the type of business we are, carefully.

I mean, if you can’t describe your business then, why would you expect customers or prospects to engage with it? What we have learnt, in O’C&K’s relatively short existence however, is that whilst you do need to be definitive, so that your business will be understood, you also need some flexibility.

I suppose our tagline (if we had one) would be, your marketing outsourced in a smarter way. The ‘smarter way’ element allows us the flexibility needed to evolve with the demands and expectations of clients. So, I guess Aidan and myself have arrived at the conclusion that the art of brand positioning is a balancing act and one that does need to be re-visited from time to time.

What stands out will make you successful.

There are only two of us in O’C&K and we operate a hub and spoke business model. When required, we employ (from our community of contacts), the expertise needed to address client’s needs. Because of this we are conscious of managing our personal brands because, when you think about it, this is what can really set us apart from competitors. You might say that ‘we’ are the USP that makes us stand out in a sea of marketing sameness and we believe that what makes you stand out, will make you successful.

There are many benefits of personal branding in a small business like ours. We like to think that the main ones are:

a) competitors cannot duplicate the relationships we have built up over the years because they are personal and therefore unique,

b) whilst providing outsourced marketing services is not unique, our personal attributes, skills and experience are,

c) we can build on our reputation as we aspire to be thought leaders in our industry, and this makes O’C&K visible and relevant.

Build authority by knowing who you are and where you are going.

Fulfilling the aspiration of becoming a thought leader means building reputation and authority over time, across all touch points, including your digital brand, social media activity and offline channels. The rationale is that a thought leader is a trusted advisor who builds their credibility through authenticity and affinity. As they engage people either offline or online, those values accrue to the brand.

As alluded to above however, the first step is knowing who you are and where you are going. Questions like – why does your company matter or what your values are, need to be answered. Two initial questions we ask potential clients are, how are they unique and why should their customers care. Interestingly, the majority of requests we have received over the last number of months have been from businesses seeking to build an online presence / community.

For the rest of this post we are going to address how you might go about building your digital brand within an online community, by providing something of value. That way, you should attract the type of people that you are targeting. So I guess, asking yourself what type of community you want to build is the first question.

The answer may appear to be simple – to build a community people who are interested in what you are doing / saying / selling. The secret here is to remember that you want to build relationships with people that have something in common – it is not a numbers game.

Think about the groups who you, personally, like to connect with. Surely they comprise people who listen to each other and share information or at least provide entertainment i.e. real people. In our opinion, good communities are made up of people who want to be there not just a massive group of ‘followers’ that you have amassed by whatever means.

In O’C&K our values are Personable, Adaptive, Conscientious and Transparent. That’s our P.A.C.T (sorry – ed). Although we cannot hand pick our online community, we do follow people / brands that are aligned to these values. This overflows into part of our mission, which is to deliver a customer experience that creates a sense of community to our clients.

From an online point of view – we focus on quality rather than quantity as we strive to build a community that will help each other grow. For instance, we recently became a member of the Irish Business in Action Group’s (BAG) online community. We hope to grow with this community of small businesses that reflect who we are and what we believe in, as a company.

I am going to outline two important steps to follow when kickstarting your digital brand and then I will outline some tips on how you might go about building authority amongst that community.

The first step is not a repeat of what we mentioned above, although it is related. Have clear business goals. Yes, you should have goals for your digital activity but they should come from your overall business objectives. Too many small businesses think that social media is a strategy – it’s not, it is only one of many tools available. There are others that may be more appropriate for your business, such as, email marketing, PPC, SEO, content marketing or any mix of them. Whatever helps achieve the business goals, dictates what online community should be pursued.

So once you’ve agreed who you are, what you do and where you want to go – you can start on the second step which is identifying your community. If you are an existing business, with a client base, then you will know what type of community you should be involved with – more of the same. If you are working with a client, then here are some questions you could ask:

  • Who is their audience and target markets therein?
  • What is their specific niche and who are their competitors?
  • Are they already part of a community (Chambers, SFA, IBEC etc.)?
  • What existing influencers do they know (bloggers, social media, and offline networks)?

Answering these questions will give you a kick-start. For instance on Twitter, check out whom your competitors follow or include on lists – and you follow them. Join groups on LinkedIn and follow relevant brands on Facebook or Google plus.

Tips and Timesavers.

Earlier in this post we mentioned building your authority using a digital brand. Whether they are undertaken by you or a colleague, here are some practices that you can start immediately:

  1. Provide relevant written content. A blog, for instance, should give value to your audience that they might not get (or would have to pay for) elsewhere. Caveat – it must be constantly updated.
  2. Write blog content as a guest. Piggyback on an a respected blog in your industry.
  3. Host a webinar. Some people prefer to have the opportunity to talk through an issue with an expert.
  4. Join a conversation. Look for forums (Boards.ie), groups (e.g. LinkedIn) and communities (Google+).
  5. Research trends, news and issues. Share your thoughts and insights and answer questions (e.g. Quora).
  6. Write or co-author a book. Use it as a promotional tool rather than a revenue generator (e.g. eBooks).
  7. Create a podcast. Not everybody has time to read your excellent articles (e.g. free app Spreaker).
  8. Create a Slideshare or write a white paper. Offer insights and guidance to a specific audience relevant to your business (e.g slideshare).
  9. Public speaking. Present on a topic for local associations or be a keynote speaker e.g. conference.
  10. Conduct research. A simple way of sharing relevant knowledge with industry peers.
  11. Have a consistent profile. Use the same pic, the same bio and link everything to your website.
  12. Be a conduit. Be the liaison between suppliers and users within your niche / community.

Don’t forget to use offline activity in a way that reinforces what you are doing online. Use product launches, sponsorship, fundraisers and community workshops to convey your message also.

The essence of authenticity.

Most business owners will agree that there is absolutely no benefit in trying to be something online that you are not in the ‘offline world’. Not only is it a waste of time but it will not build a sustainable business either. Figure out who you are, what you do best, and be real. People like dealing with real people and real brands.

Be true to your own brand by having integrity. Find things to do and others to hang out with that ensure positivity, surrounds you. Don’t hide your flaws, nobody is perfect and are not expected to be. Live up to your (brand) promise and have fun while doing it – life’s too short.

Authentic people are exciting and refreshing and society nowadays is hungry for authenticity.

 If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page.  Of course, if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K