Using Public Service Marketing to Build Consumer Bonds

How brands and consumers alike are reaping mutual benefit from public service initiatives during times of economical gloom.

MarketingWeek recently published an article on how brands are trending towards  plugging the public service gap during a time when government budget for public service programs is shrinking. This means less money for improving public access to and information and resources on health education and the likes.

Earlier this week, HuffPost and several others reported a 12% budget cut for Tobacco Prevention Programs provided to the public by the American Cancer Society and similar organizations. For the past 12 years, funds to help teach the public of the health hazards caused by smoking has now been reduced to a new low.

But some companies are taking this opportunity to support and educate consumers where the government is lacking.

Unilever and Kraft, for example, are taking it upon themselves to push health initiatives in an effort to educated consumers to make more healthful decisions.  Kraft recently launched a fight against obesity that included work to reduce portion sizes and reduce the amount of fat and sugar where possible.  “Kraft is committed to product choices and marketing practices that will help encourage healthy lifestyles and make it easier to eat and live better,” co-CEO Betsy Holden said in a statement.

As in the case with Unilever, whose portfolio of brands, through offering information and resources to the public for anti-smoking initiatives, are not only gaining awareness but also building a socially responsible brand personality. Consumers are likely to regard companies like these as respectful and caring, thus generating a strong, loyal bond between the audience and the company. On the audience side, they’re provided updates with the latest resources to free information—when and where they are made available, whether online or through groups within their community.

Is this more than a marketing ploy?  Social responsibility definitely gains consumer favor and in turn adds value to the brand.  Many people question large corporations’ real motives- especially Kraft as it is owned by parent company Philip Morris, makers of cigarettes and who’s practices have not always been in favor of consumer health.

Social responsibility might be a trendy way to market your product, but if its been done for the wrong reasons, consumers will catch on pretty quickly.  Whether or not public service announcements are better off pushing the agenda of corporations or the government remains to be seen.  In the meantime, we will take this nod to public service for what it is, and for a moment enjoy the thought that big businesses really care about their consumers.

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