While corporate philanthropy has long ago shifted from community charity to strategic, carefully designed programs, a fundamental question of authenticity can undermine the soundest strategies.
If the association between a company and a cause, or the social impact of the company’s action does not resonate with consumers and other stakeholders, what is the point of the best-laid plans?
This question was examined at a recent panel convened by Barron’s and the Luxury Marketing Council, a collaborative organization of leading brands. Discussion was led by journalist and author Richard C. Morais, editor of Barron’s Penta, a quarterly magazine and website serving wealthy families. In this context, Morais addressed the inherent contradiction facing luxury brands and philanthropy — high end products are often marketed as expressions and rewards for one’s self, and this can create dissonance for philanthropic projects focused on others. Customers of these brands are also often philanthropists themselves and they are attuned to these inconsistencies.
As Page Snow, Chief Philanthropic Officer at Foundation Source, illustrated, “Individuals of wealth are approached constantly for various causes, and their BS detector becomes very finely tuned, especially at higher levels of wealth.”