Monday, November 24, 2008

Look Good, Doing Good

Kenneth Cole is taking his designs to the ultimate "A-wear-ness". His company is donating 100% of net proceeds from the sale of AWEARNESS merchandise to the AWEARNESS Fund - a not-for-profit entity that supports, encourages and empowers acts of service, volunteerism and social change. To find out more, please visit their ABOUT page.

As a long time lover of Kenneth Cole fashion, I find his new philanthropic entity 'smashing daaaling' and extremely well branded. Just the name, Awearness, how simple, clever and closely aligned with fashion is that? Right on. Plus, by keeping the Kenneth Cole Company giving focused on this new philanthropic fund, the Awearness Fund, it builds even greater brand awareness for his company name and merchandise. Not that Kenneth Cole needed a boost to his brand, but this is a great way to communicate that he and his company stand for something more than the bottom-line. Kuddos. I love this whole intiative and will without reserve promote it where I can.

His company is partnering with Volunteer Match (one of my favorite organizations and one I direct clients to all the time) to encourage social change on issues such as AIDS, homelessness and more. The purpose of the initiative is to promote awareness and advance volunteerism and service, and raise funds, all in an effort to make a difference.

You can read more about this partnership here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Boost Your Brand by Giving Back

Boost Your Brand by Giving Back (tm)

A philanthropy program for businesses is not just limited to Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies. Actually, any business of any size and at any stage of the business can have success through charitable giving. So, if you think you are too small or don’t have the resources or that you are just in the first couple of years of beginning your business and a giving program is not the right time, let me tell you to lay those assumptions to rest.

Nearly ninety-two percent of Americans have a positive image of a company that supports causes (Cone, 2007). Believe it or not, your business qualifies as a part of that statistic. The study doesn’t say, “Americans have a positive image of really big corporations that give back.” Rather it refers to all businesses, of all sizes, from all different types of industries. So, if you are a business owner (solo entrepreneur) the very same analysis applies to you.

Think for just a moment when you donated your time, or a product or service or when you wrote a check (regardless of the size) to a charity, in your community. How did you feel about giving? Did someone else or group know you gave? Did you share your giving story with customers or clients? Aside from the intrinsic rewards you feel, there are significant extrinsic rewards that can benefit your business simply by implementing a giving program. Again, no matter the size.

Customers, clients and communities recognize businesses for their philanthropy (also called community involvement). When you give, you are creating customer and community connections. This is boosting your brand and branding creates loyalty among customers. Eighty-seven percent of Americans will switch from one product or service to another, even when price and quality are equal, if the other product or services is associated with a cause (Cone, 2007). That is a statistically significant.

Wouldn’t you like to boost your brand? The American Marketing Association defines brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol or design or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers”. We also know that branding is your message and how you communicate it to customers and communities. Ask yourself, “What are you doing to differentiate your brand (business) from another similar business offering the same service or product?” (Notice, I didn’t say “competitor”. Trust me, there are enough customers and clients for everyone, and it’s your job to connect with those who want to business with you because of your value and values.) Having a business giving program is one way to successfully brand your business. Keep in mind, cutting a few checks here and there or volunteering once in a while does not comprise a business giving program. As altruistic as your intentions are, a giving program has a strategy so that it works for both business and causes.

Here are just a few tips to help you boost your brand through a giving program.

1. Identify your values: Brand is based on values, period. Your business values influence every decision and action you make.

2. Identify mutual benefits: Your aim should be to have a giving program that serves your business, customers, community which makes a difference in the world.

3. Create a connection: Build a meaningful connection with your customers on every level of your business. Each experience is crucial to defining and building your brand. Even your message creates an emotional connection that shifts the value perception and equation to build customer trust and loyalty.

Not sure if your giving back is building your brand? If you can’t define your giving program through your brand, your customers won’t be able to either. Your brand and giving program must be aligned to authenticate the brand connection with your business, customers and communities.

I share all of this AND more in my new Boost Your Brand by Giving Back (tm) Audio. You can get your copy of this mp3 for only $27 at

© 2008. Maggie F. Keenan, Ed.D. All rights reserved.