3 Critical Pillars to Building a Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy

The critical roles of clients, people and community in building out a successful CSR strategy.

The current global pandemic and its effects on the global economy has accelerated the importance of corporations acting responsibly. The bright side is that by operating with a corporate social responsibility (CSR) code, you can help your top and bottom lines as well.

Jessica Hawthorne-Castro

Three out of four consumers — millennials in particular — are more likely to purchase from brands or do business with companies that are socially responsible. This applies both to brand and employer selection where 81% of millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship. That’s probably why businesses of all sizes across industries spend billions of dollars annually on CSR activities, ranging from eco-friendly office practices to charitable giving to volunteering.

A critical success factor in the current economy, CSR is about putting people and the planet first by operating in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner. It represents a tremendous opportunity for businesses to build trust, bolster their reputations, and give back to their communities.

CSR helps companies align themselves with these core consumer values by giving back and finding solutions to everyday problems. Here are three pillars that must be factored into all successful CSR strategies:

Clients and consumers want to be associated with businesses that are doing good and have good reputations. Implementing CSR initiatives can help brands that are highly competitive on price, quality and convenience. Embracing socially responsible policies helps companies burnish their images and cultivate positive brand recognition by demonstrating compassion and trustworthiness — both of which help attract and retain clients.

By building client loyalty, CSR helps companies achieve increased profitability and long-term financial success. For example, a marketing and advertising agency may choose to work with both nonprofit and for-profit businesses. Creating a compelling campaign for a children’s hospital or a conservation nonprofit shows that the agency is committed to giving back; clients will want to be associated with that goodwill. Charitable giving is another way to display a commitment to CSR. During the holiday season, for instance, businesses can donate on their clients’ behalf. This both supports meaningful causes and shows clients that you care.

Making CSR a priority creates a positive work environment that inspires and unites employees. It supports recruitment, retention and employee satisfaction. Good CSR also attracts employees who are eager to make a difference in the world. It helps companies recruit top-tier talent looking for jobs that have meaning and impact.

Social responsibility empowers employees to leverage corporate resources for good; those collective employee efforts can be powerful (i.e. in terms of both improved workplace morale and higher productivity). When workers have a sense of pride in the company they work for, they’re better engaged, committed and likely to stick around.

Ultimately the most successful CSR strategies are baked into a company’s DNA. ”
— Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO of Hawthorne Advertising

CSR starts at home. In other words, a company that makes large donations to charitable organizations, but doesn’t pay its own workers a fair wage or provide equal access opportunities, is not living up to certain values. Avoid this problem by creating flexible work schedules and remote work policies (the latter of which has become imperative due to the global pandemic). Focus on instituting a corporate culture that promotes work-life balance and employee well-being. This is particularly important during times of uncertainty when mental health requires additional attention and care. These may not seem CSR-related on the surface, but they are critical to making opportunities more accessible to a wider swath of people.

Businesses have a role to play in making local communities and the planet a cleaner place to live. Companies should be passionate about protecting the earth by applying green thinking to every decision they make. Regardless of size, all companies can have a positive impact on the environment by implementing green practices and procedures designed to address climate change.

The opportunities to “go green” are endless, and include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Recycling programs
  • Purchasing environmentally preferable office products
  • Water filtration systems that reduce reliance on plastic water bottles
  • Equipment that automatically switches to energy-saver mode
  • Employee tree-planting days
  • Bonuses for green methods of commuting to work (i.e. bicycling or using public transportation)

Building your corporate social responsibility strategy
Using these three pillars as a foundation, companies can build out their CSR strategies by first identifying their strengths. Ask questions such as: What are you good at? What do clients, potential hires and the broader business community look to your company for? What do you have that no other company does? What can you offer that’s unique?

Next, consider what your clients and customers value. Are there particular issues they care about? Once you’ve identified those issues, how can your company support them? If gender equality is a core area of interest, donate to charitable organizations that are passionate about that. Ensure the gender balance of the workplace is equitable, and that there are programs in place to support more women leaders.

When crafting your CSR strategy, be sure to involve employees. Find out what they care about and how they want to spend their time and resources. As one goal of CSR is to engage employees in collective action, their opinions carry a lot of weight.

Finally, effective CSR programs capture analytics and measurements to gauge their success. Make sure you are designing programs to have an impact, and that aren’t “just for show.” Employees and clients alike will appreciate knowing the outcomes.

Making a difference in the world
Ultimately the most successful CSR strategies are baked into a company’s DNA. Done right, CSR helps to build brand recognition and customer loyalty; saves money by reducing global footprints; attracts positive media attention; helps with top talent recruitment; and improves employee satisfaction and morale. But most importantly, companies that practice CSR can make a real difference in the world.


How Neuroscience Can Strengthen Marketing Campaigns In 2019


By Jessica Hawthorne-Castro (YPO Los Angeles)

Original Publication: YPO.Org

Marketing has always relied on tapping into the consumer’s subconscious — how they think, what they do, and why they make certain decisions. The ways of answering these questions, however, have grown more sophisticated over time thanks to advancements in science and technology.

Where marketers used to rely on observation, focus groups and intuition, they now look to insights from data analytics and research to shape their strategies. This shift, combined with the overwhelming amount of content consumers are confronted with in their daily lives, is why neuroscience is becoming more important than ever.

Today, every marketer can amplify any campaign’s strength and impact by using neuroscience to drive engagement.


People today are overexposed to content. They have an overwhelming amount of choices for where to spend their time in terms of media, apps, channels and services. The average American navigates between multiple screens and is active on social media, which means they are surrounded by noise. While all this digital engagement creates marketing opportunities, it also makes it much harder to break through.

Neuroscience, which is all about understanding human behavior and mental function, can help marketers overcome these challenges and create campaigns that stick. The Association of National Advertisers defines consumer neuroscience as the practice of integrating “nonconscious measures to capture responses moment by moment, offering a more complete view of the consumer.” Or in the words of Uma R. Karmarkar, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, “neuroscience can help us understand those hidden elements of the decision process,” such as why people assign value to certain things or what factors influence them and why.

Neuroscience aims to go beyond figuring out what people want or like and dives into the underlying forces that shape consumer decision-making. These deeper insights can lead to more effective campaigns.


Neuroscience has always had relevance for marketers, but its role has grown in importance in today’s saturated media environment. Estimates of how many brand messages the average consumer sees in a day vary wildly, from 4,000 to 10,000. On either side of the spectrum, that’s a lot of messages.

And brands aren’t only competing with each other, but also with all the content (branded or otherwise) people see on social media and share themselves. Add in circumstances, like election season or the holidays, and the competition is fierce. In 2019, marketers have to target consumers and deliver messages in a brief but compelling way that resonates deeply and can help them stand out.

One example of a simple yet powerful neuroscience technique is acoustic encoding. Human brains prefer to take the path of least resistance when processing information. The easier something is for us to grasp, the more readily we believe it and the more tenaciously we’ll hold onto it. Using sounds in ads that rhyme and repeat make them stickier.

Today, every marketer can amplify any campaign’s strength and impact by using neuroscience to drive engagement.
A similar principle is true for images. The developmental molecular biologist Dr. John Medina has done research that found humans are likely to remember just 10 percent of a piece of written information three days later, whereas including a relevant image boosts that figure to about 65 percent. That’s a huge jump. Visuals can serve as a shortcut and eliminate a step from the recall process, while also reinforcing meaning.


Other neuroscience techniques draw on human behaviors. For instance, people have a “pessimism bias” thanks to evolution. Our ancestors had to be pessimistic because it helped them survive and vestiges of that instinct remain. Marketers can leverage this aspect of neuroscience to promote their brand by emphasizing how a certain product or service can help consumers avoid a bad outcome.

Social validation is another powerful motivator. Research into neuroscience shows that humans have an innate need to fit in with a group and seek the validation of our peers. When making decisions, we are comforted by knowing that others have made a similar decision and were satisfied with the results. This is why testimonials can have such a significant effect. Testimonials are hardly a new technique, but neuroscience reveals exactly how and why testimonials work; that knowledge can empower marketers to use them more strategically.

In 2019, the media landscape is only going to get more crowded and competitive. Brands are going to have to think out of the box and integrate cutting-edge techniques into their campaigns if they want their messages to break through. Neuromarketing has never been a more important tool in campaigns or branding to deeply resonate with customers and create a more personalized experience.

Increase Customer Engagement With Data-Driven Marketing

By Jessica Hawthorne-Castro (YPO Los Angeles)

Original Publication: YPO.Org

How companies are leveraging data to develop complete, multi-channel pictures of exactly what their customers think and want — and then fulfilling those needs.

There isn’t a corner of the advertising world that hasn’t been touched by data-driven marketing, or the use of data to make good decisions and improve engagement with both existing and future customers. And much like the proliferation of data is impacting the business world as a whole, effective data integration and assessment continue to play a key role in helping companies enhance their value across numerous channels.
The flow of data throughout the data-driven marketing economy is forcing traditional producer-centric firms to become increasingly customer-centric, according to the DMA Data-Driven Marketing Institute in “The Value of Data: Consequences for Insight, Innovation, and Efficiency in the U.S. Economy.”
In today’s organizations, customers are used to getting exactly what they want, and they expect companies to fulfill those needs. Through the use of both internal and external data, companies are learning how to “crown” their customer — truly understand what makes them tick — and then develop campaigns that engage those buyers in the most effective manner possible.

The rise of the data-driven marketer and consumer
More than 40 percent of brands plan to expand their data-driven marketing budgets in the near future, according to eMarketer. Data enables companies to make better decisions and map out a clearer customer journey. It also enables brands to personalize content more effectively and at scale.
Data-driven marketing has advanced significantly in the programmatic buying sector, but it also impacts campaign creative. In the past, creative was produced once, with one version for everyone — an ad was one, final, self-contained file that could run anywhere. That is no longer the case. Intrusive rich media ads are losing ground to more consumer-friendly formats that use personalization, rather than interruption, to get the message across. Creative, media and data are all converging as marketers strive to tailor messages based on who is seeing it and where.
The use of customer information for optimal and targeted media buying and creative messaging, data-driven marketing has been key to taking any guess work out of questions like who, when, where, or what message, and making those answers actionable. Consumers are becoming increasingly picky about the messages they read and the products they buy. In this landscape, marketers have to create personalized messages in order to attract and retain customers. This requires collecting and analyzing data.

No more hit-or-miss media testing
Data-driven marketing has effectively replaced the traditional “hit-or-miss” test component of the typical marketing campaigns. For example, at Hawthorne we typically ask new clients for one to two years’ worth of data in order to identify statistically relevant response curves for past campaigns and marketing efforts. We then use a statistical approach to web attribution analytics to measure the response curve of media airings and extrapolate the hidden signal from the visible signal through a proven methodology. With this information in hand, marketers can set baselines for current and future campaign effectiveness.