Imagine if goodwill could be ordered online and delivered to a company’s doorstep, like office supplies. But it’s not that easy. Goodwill has to be earned and nurtured. It develops over time. So when companies adopt a social cause because they think it will win them instant trust and credibility, as measured by increased revenue, they often end up disappointed.
Whether it’s underwriting a public-service television campaign, hosting an event to benefit the local community, or sponsoring a fundraiser to support a worthy cause, companies have no shortage of opportunities to be good Corporate citizens. But consumers are smart they can tell the difference between companies whose motives are sincere and those whose real cause is to sell more products. When a company shows genuine, long-term commitment to its customers and to the larger community, by way of its business practices and public service, then goodwill will follow and the business will benefit.
Bernie & Phyl’s Furniture is a prime example of a hometown company that has solidified its reputation by giving back to the local community. Started by the husband-and-wife team of Bernie and Phyllis (“Phyl”) Rubin in 1983, Bernie & Phyl’s Furniture has evolved from a small single storefront into one of the largest retailers in New England, with six stores, $100 million in sales, and 450 employees. Bernie and Phyl Rubin built their company and their brand around the idea of family because family is what they value most.
Building a Family-Oriented Brand
When our agency first started working with Bernie & Phyl’s on their advertising campaign nearly 14 years ago, they understood that in order to create a brand name for their stores, advertising had to be a top priority. As result of their TV commercials, Bernie & Phyl’s Furniture enjoys almost universal brand-name awareness in the market, and Bernie and Phyllis Rubin are recognized practically everywhere they go. They have leveraged their company’s reputation and their own popularity as a vehicle to help build strong, healthy families. Public-service sponsorships are an integral part of Bernie and Phyl’s annual advertising buys.
Goodwill Can’t Be Quantified
Goodwill isn’t tangible, like retail stores or equipment. It can’t be appraised like physical assets or measured in the way that sales revenue and profits can. Clients can’t always quantify the “results’ of their community outreach. Community outreach needs to be viewed as a necessary and important part of doing business. Earned consumer goodwill is reflected in a healthy percentage of repeat sales, in annual growth, and in positive feedback from customers. (Especially when they want to thank your company for doing the right thing, and ask how they, too, can get involved).
Recommendations for Advertisers
Get involved in things you believe in.
Consumers can distinguish between a true believer and a cause dabbler; your cause should be something near and dear to you.
Focus on activities that are consistent with your business and brand.
How does your effort relate to your business and industry? Does the alignment make sense?
Build community outreach around a central theme.
If you keep changing your focus, you’re communicating that you don’t know who you are.
Educate and engage your employees.
Making sure they know what you are doing and why will invoke pride in the company and a sense of belonging. Weekly management meetings and company newsletters keep your staff informed about community-related projects and encourage their involvement.
Keep public service separate from product advertising and marketing.
They go together like a plaid shirt and a polka-dot tie. Make a long-term commitment. The goodwill you will generate will be worth more than all of your physical assets combined.