In partnership with The CMO Club, The CMO of the Week series profiles CMOs who are shaping, changing and challenging the world of modern marketing. For Neisser's complete interview with CMO Award Winner Alison Lewis, click here.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR), when a company becomes a steward not just to the bottom line but also to the community, is often thought of as a business fairy tale. Sure, it's good to help others, but is it actually a priority for a Fortune 500 company?
For Johnson and Johnson, the answer is emphatically yes. Although the company has had ups in downs during its 100+ year history, J&J has always been committed to doing well by doing good. Current CMO Alison Lewis explains social responsibility isn't just the right thing to do; it also brings value to the company. "Sustainability is an end-to-end value chain effort," says Alison. "When we make progress, our brand marketing teams can help translate that progress in a meaningful way to our consumers."
When it comes to CSR, Alison is the first to admit that it's not solely a top-down effort. By encouraging employees and customers alike to make a difference, she engenders J&J to the public in a way that's in sync with the company's values. "Marketing can play a key role to engage consumers and help brands make a difference," Alison says. "Our NEUTROGENA® Naturals brand is an example of how a brand can build progress on sustainability into its consumer communications."
For Alison, the business sense behind CSR is simple ROI for the number one company stakeholder holder: the everyday customer. "The important thing is to always put the consumer at the center," says Alison. "At Johnson & Johnson, we have a long history of being guided by Our Credo values, the first tenant of which is our responsibility to the people we serve - everyone who uses our products."
When many C-suite members try to integrate corporate responsibility into their business, they expect results too quickly, or choose metrics that are too hard to quantify. J&J suggests another route: not going after a short-term business goal, but building a customer relationship for the long run. As Alison puts it, "Change for the sake of change doesn't work, but changing to meet consumer needs is always right!"
But creating a CSR plan for the long run brings along with it it's own set of challenges. Alison acknowledges that it's not always easy to stay the course when you have budgets and deadlines to meet, but by keeping a focus on social responsibility gives businesses a moral. "The key is consistency," says Alison. "Regardless of the business climate, our values and commitment to social responsibility have remained steadfast."
One note: CSR is not created in a vacuum. J&J says that to truly maximize the results of your initiatives, there must be a direct correlation to your business objectives. "My advice to other CMOs is to embed your CSR commitments into your core values and your business strategy and your brands will have a strong foundation to make a meaningful difference," says Alison.
So how has Johnson & Johnson been innovating in CSR, and are there any takeaways from its recent initiatives? Alison gives a tale of when J&J's baby products came under fire for their ingredients list. Although the ingredients hadn't been proven harmful, J&J reformulated them anyway; it was just the right thing to do. "We knew that our actions would speak louder than our words, and we made the decision to reformulate our baby products for trust," Alison says. "As our reformulated products hit shelves, we launched a new campaign, to illustrate our heartfelt commitment to the moms, dads and families that use our products."
But Alison and her team didn't stop there. By combining a good CSR move with her marketing campaign, they amplified goodwill, and by sharing the tale to on social media, they were able to create the holy grail of marketing: genuine, brand-centered storytelling. "To tell the story behind our promise, we launched our biggest social media campaign," says Alison. "We've seen millions of consumers interact with our video content, comment on our social channels and learn more about what our brand stands for due to our ability to connect through storytelling." For J&J, CSR means more than doing good; it means doing very well.