Purpose isn’t just for Christmas

The COO of Neighbourly, the platform to help businesses connect with charities, explains the power of giving
Zoe Colosimo

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what year the Christmas advert hype began to feature as part of the festive calendar. More than simple TV ads, the launch of what are now miniature films has become an event – in the marcomms industry and the public consciousness.
These ads featuring charitable giving and corporate social responsibility have also become a recuring theme. In the context of climate breakdown and the cost-of-living crisis, it’s not a surprise to see these themes being surfaced at a time when there is a naturally heightened focus on community and goodwill. Businesses increasingly know that communicating how they are contributing to improving lives in local communities achieves better buy-in and brand trust.

In this context, the question becomes: as marketeers, how can we make sure that this focus, and the attention these adverts generate for causes, translates into long-term impact? And what about the risk of being seen as inauthentic, or self-serving?

Still the season of goodwill, despite cost-of-living pressures

Although the effects can be short-lived, we know that charitable donations do rise around Christmas. 48% of people say they are more likely to give at Christmas. The companies behind the most successful ads which feature purpose-driven messages are the ones that can tap into this goodwill while genuinely enacting meaningful change, through long-term partnership and investment in the causes they champion.

Companies have a fine line to tread: audiences are looking for escape and a sense of hope. However, at a time when more than a million children in the UK are experiencing “horrifying levels of destitution”, the fact that Christmas adverts increasingly feature charities and highlight giving is perhaps a sign of a deeper societal mindset shift.

View business as part our societal ecosystem

Business success is inherently tied to the health of society as a whole, which goes beyond transactional motives. Companies and individuals cannot flourish if the surrounding ecosystem fails. Businesses that understand and act upon this, by responding to the needs of the communities where they operate, prove to be more resilient.

Using a version of the NPS scoring system, Neighbourly has conducted pilot research across our good cause network. Involving 1,000 charities, we found that where charities and local causes had been supported by a company as part of an ongoing programme, they gave that company a score relating to trust and positive sentiment which was, on average, 33 points higher than the average score given by charities that had not been supported by those businesses. These trust indicators become particularly interesting when you look at the evidence that links societal trust with economic prosperity.  

This emphasises business’ opportunity to drive real impact - not just as a seasonal effort but year-round. The key is transforming short-term "holiday halo" goodwill into year-long purpose-driven partnerships, programmes and storytelling based on genuine shared values, which in turn helps to build more sustainable, resilient communities.

When companies with influence aim to create positive change, we should encourage those efforts rather than greet them with cynicism. If they partner with trusted charities, select causes which are appropriate to their mission and values, involve employees in giving initiatives, and commit to long-term engagement, companies can leverage their scale and resources to draw attention and funds to critical causes. With more voices providing sustained backing – at Christmas and beyond - charities and communities in need get better investment.

Translating festive campaigns into sustained impact

This applies to the smaller businesses as well as the household name retail brands behind our favourite Christmas ads. Even without vast marketing budgets, smaller brands can tap into festive goodwill for long-term social impact, and build brand equity at the same time.

By using Christmas as the time to launch campaign messaging around a charity partnership or giving theme, you tap into consumers’ own wish to pay it forward during the festive season. Lower-cost ways for marketing teams to highlight corporate purpose and chosen causes and charitable partners include providing donation links at online point of sale, or via your social media, or through limited-edition products where proceeds go to select causes.

You could even go one step further: could the entire ad spend budget set aside for Christmas be donated to a charity partner, prioritising social return on investment over ROAS? It is the season of goodwill, and a time of societal change, after all. All the (Christmas) cards should be on the table…

Written by
Zoe Colosimo
COO at Neighbourly
December 8, 2023
Written by
December 8, 2023