MarCom 2.0 - Cutting Through the Clutter

In the past five years the communications and marketing world has become increasingly complicated. Google+, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and mobile apps have joined the vast array of outlets and platforms competing for our attention. This blog contains my thoughts on best practices for cutting through the clutter and having impact. I'll also be taking occasional detours into the world of corporate social responsibility and green marketing where I have ten years of expertise.

Starwood & Clean The World: 5 Lesson on Building an Effective Cause Partnership

By Jason W. Anderson on
Jason W. Anderson
Jason has spent the last ten years developing and executing communications strat
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Jul 17 in Corporate Social Responsibility

Have you ever wondered what happens to all of the leftover soap and little bottles of shampoo once you pack up and leave that hotel room?  It may seem like a small thing, but consider all the rooms in that hotel.  Now consider all the hotel rooms in that city.  Now consider all the hotel rooms in that state.  You get the picture -- that is a lot of leftover soap.

In our rush to check out and get on about our business, it is probably little more than a passing thought.  One organization, however, saw this as an opportunity to make a difference for global health issues.  And now they have secured a major corporate partner to scale their work.

This is a good example of a cause-marketing partnership done right.

Have you ever wondered what happens to all of the leftover soap and little bottles of shampoo once you pack up and leave that hotel room?  It may seem like a small thing, but consider all the rooms in that hotel.  Now consider all the hotel rooms in that city.  Now consider all the hotel rooms in that state.  You get the picture -- that is a lot of leftover soap.

In our rush to check out and get on about our business, it is probably little more than a passing thought.  One organization, however, saw this as an opportunity to make a difference for global health issues.  And now they have secured a major corporate partner to scale their work.

This is a good example of a cause-marketing partnership done right.

“Cleaning up” Starwood’s Waste Problem

According to global health statistics, more than five million individuals die each year due to diseases caused by the simple fact that they have no soap.  Yet, every year hotel chains discard millions of pounds of soap and shampoo.

An organization called Clean The World has stepped in to connect the dots.  Their focus is to collect this leftover soap, recycle it and then distribute it to those countries suffering from high death rates due to unsanitary living conditions.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts, whose brands include the W Hotel, Westin, St. Regis, Sheraton and others, has been making a push to be a leader in the corporate social responsibility space.  Solving the waste issue related to leftover soap was part of that effort.

Earlier this year, they partnered with Clean The World, and agreed to “collect and recycle hotel soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions and gels” from their various hotel chains.  An estimated 1.6 million pounds of hotel soap is expected to be recycled through the partnership.

5 Lessons to Achieve “Win-Win” Partnerships

This is one of those win-win partnerships that serves as a good lesson for both big brands and non-profits for how to develop smart partnerships.

  • Clean The World was founded on simple, tangible mission and their communications reflect that.  This is an important lesson for other non-profits who are looking at how to communicate to potential donors and corporate partners.  Companies are especially looking for partnerships that they can easily communicate to their consumers.  The more complex you make your message, the harder it is to connect with your audiences (big and small) and get them to support your cause.  This infographic and video demonstrate ways to easily communicate your mission in a way the consumers and donors can quickly grasp:

 

 

 

  • By partnering with Clean The World, Starwood got targeted expertise on solving a specific problem - waste.   Non-profits can provide valuable outside expertise when it comes to solving operational issues.  In addition, when you can show that your company worked with an independent organization it lends further credibility to your actions in the eyes of consumers.

  • Pure philanthropy is nice, but can quickly become murky.  We have all heard the term greenwashing (and now pinkwashing).  This is what happens when a company looks for the halo effect by promoting a big donation or non-profit partnership, but is not actually taking action to solve the environmental or social impacts caused by their operations and supply chain.  This partnership clearly avoids that.  Both the non-profit and the company must make sure the partnership is authentic to their core mission and values or they will get quickly called out by naysers.

  • Large companies must also be careful not to claim too much credit from one simple partnership or donation, especially when their operations have multiple impacts.  Starwood is a good case in point.  Hotels use a lot of electricity and can have a major climate change impact.  Starwood is taking action in this area.  An example of this is the launch of their “Element” brand of hotels which are all built to LEED certification standards.  When companies can demonstrate that they are working to reduce their larger environmental and social impacts, individual partnerships have more credibility.

  • Clean The World is actively promoting and explaining the cause/effect aspects of this partnership through social media channels like Facebook (and making the feed available on their homepage!), YouTube, Twitter, etc.  Not everyone agrees that non-profits should be working with corporations, and advocacy groups can quickly create a negative perception around these partnerships.  By being proactive in speaking clearly to their supporters, Clean Your World is controlling the story and preventing others from potentially taking them off message and creating doubt among supporters.



Caution: One Press Release Does Not a Successful Partnership Make

I definitely applaud the intent and the execution of this partnership.  There is, however, a potential pitfall that both Clean The World and Starwood must avoid - failing to actually follow through.  

For 10 years, I worked with an environmental non-profit designing and executing cause marketing campaigns with Fortune 500 brands.  I have seen more than one partnership fail to achieve its objectives.  This can happen for many reasons, so it is important to see these commitments through.  Failure to do so can can create major negative backlash.

In this case the joint press release has a number of qualifiers in it.  It contains phrases like “an estimated 1.6 million pounds,” and “potentially involving 500 Starwood hotels.”

I understand the need to be cautious with announcements like this.  Still, I would have liked to have seen their press release commit to some benchmarks and when they would report out.  So now the burden of proof is on these organizations to demonstrate results.

I was encouraged to see this blog post, which captured some key metrics just two months in to the partnership.  Let’s hope they keep that kind of information coming and that the numbers continue to add up.    I would encourage them to make sure this information is more easily found at the Starwood website (and ultimately in hotel rooms).

Eventually, if they can get success stories from the actual users of this recycled soap and use that in their future communications efforts to engage consumers and donors that would be a home run.

Good luck!

Tags: green, CSR, branding, marketing
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About the author

Jason W. Anderson

Jason has spent the last ten years developing and executing communications strategies and integrated marketing campaigns for Conservation International, an international non-profit with operations in 30 countries. Jason has worked with Fortune 500 brands, government agencies, pr firms and partner organizations to educate, engage and empower consumers, policy makers and business leaders. Prior to that, Jason spent nine years with CNN as a producer in their political and business news units.
 

Contact Me:
Jason W. Anderson
Falls Church, VA

jason@jasonwanderson.com

 
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