Brand Insights

For Health Science Executives

The Business Case for Marketing Social Responsibility

The Business Case for Marketing Social Responsibility

By Karan Cushman, July 22, 2016


Promoting your bioresearch brand’s corporate conscience can positively impact its bottom line. Vertex shows us how.

Leadership Marketing Profile: Vertex Pharmaceuticals

Vertex Pharmaceuticals has been a leader on Standard and Poor’s 500 since 2011, and its commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility has been a key element of the brand’s success.

Occasionally, I highlight a Biopharma or Life Science organization that is executing a marketing tactic exceptionally well. This time, I’ve chosen Vertex for its Social Responsibility initiatives, which are deeply engrained in the company culture. Vertex does more than research diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis: The company actively participates with communities of people affected by the disease and fights alongside them to bring attention to their cause.

Participation in the Cystic Fibrosis community is integral to the Vertex brand, which is why it created its own microsite, All in for CF, to highlight that dedication. The company rallies supporters, patients and its own employees around finding new and better treatments.

More Bioresearch brands should be doing the same.


How Social Responsibility Adds Value to your Bioresearch Brand

Marketing a Biopharma or Life Science organization is about more than selling research or promoting a product. Potential customers, current customers, employees, investors and stakeholders also want to understand how your brand fits into the bigger picture and impacts the greater good. Is your team passionate about making healthcare safer? Have you helped shine a spotlight on a rare disease?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) integrates your company’s passion for social and environmental concerns into everyday business operations to define your brand as something greater than a business entity. It enables you to tell It positions you as an industry leader and boosts your reputation Creating marketing or PR around Corporate Responsibility initiatives can tap into the emotional and psychological reasons others might want to support your Bioresearch organization. They also encourage connections that might otherwise not happen, and those connections can energize your brand.

If you’re considering strengthening your Bioresearch brand’s CSR, a visit to the
Vertex website offers clues for how to do it well:

1) Make Corporate Social Responsibility a Priority
The homepage of the Vertex website
is dedicated to sharing the company’s social initiatives, because giving back to the community is a company wide priority. Vertex research is focused on finding discoveries that impact Cystic Fibrosis, Oncology, Pain Management, Spinal Cord Injury and more, and its Social Responsibility activities align with these goals. The company proudly promotes health initiatives, educational and volunteer activities that keep these causes front and center, and it puts a lot of effort into keeping the community and its employees involved.

“About Us” is also the first link on the Vertex website, another indication that the company puts its people first. A drop-down menu and featured news stories lead visitors to explore the substantial work Vertex is doing in its community. The takeaway is that it’s not enough for Biopharma and Life Science companies to encourage active participation and engagement in their initiatives. They must also market those initiatives every day with as much (if not more) emphasis as they give to the products they sell to demonstrate how their work with the community ties into a larger mission.

2) Be Authentically Connected
All humans share a need to feel respected, accepted and valued by others. People regularly choose careers, activities and social circles based on how valued those choices make them feel. This dynamic is just as apparent in the marketplace and workplace. People naturally choose to align themselves with companies and brands that share their values and feed their need to contribute to the greater good.

Vertex addresses this deep psychological need by being a brand humans can relate to and feel good about. Rather than images of test tubes and cells, the company’s website uses images of people holding hands, embracing and working together alongside images of handwritten letters that reflect the strength, courage and heart of those impacted by serious disease.

These images immediately let website visitors know that Vertex is a human-centric brand that cares about more than profit, which is a story that cannot be told without some form of social engagement. Simply organizing Social Responsibility events is not enough to connect in this way. Those marketing Biopharma and Life Science brands must be authentically and emotionally connected to these events, and show a true commitment that goes beyond any single initiative. This authenticity will ultimately translate into a trustworthy brand with which people want to do business and work for.

3) Network with a New Generation
One look at the Vertex homepage shows its commitment to a new generation of consumers and employees. The page highlights news about the company’s Science Fair Mentorship Program, Science Leader Scholarships, and discovery programs aimed at engaging a new generation.

For instance, during this year’s Project Week, Vertex hosted students in its Learning Lab, a classroom and laboratory space dedicated to providing a hands-on science learning experience. Visiting students were taught to use forensic lab techniques to solve a simulated missing person case, giving them a firsthand experience in applying science. Programs such as these go a long way towards cultivating a relationship with future customers, thought-leaders and even employees.

Although large companies have always been expected to show some degree of corporate responsibility, millennials have now made it nearly mandatory. Surveys have shown that millennials are willing to take pay cuts and/or be promoted at a slower pace if it means working for their dream company, which is often one with a social purpose.

A study conducted by Cone Millennial Cause group found that 80% of 13-25 year olds wanted to work for a socially responsible company. Also, more than half said they would refuse to work for an irresponsible company.

To put this in perspective, consider that millennials will account for 50% of the workforce by 2020.

A 2015 survey conducted by AFLAC showed similar findings:

  • 66% of millennial respondents said they are likely to invest in a company well known for its corporate social-responsibility program, compared with 48 percent of adults older than 34.
  • 82% of millennials are likely to seek employment at a company recognized for its ethics, compared to 68% of people older than 34.
  • 75% of millennial consumers said they would be happier to work for a company with a strong corporate social-responsibility program.
  • And a whopping 92% of millennials are more likely to purchase from an ethical company! With the average age of Biotech workers at 49, CSR may be a critical engagement tools for meeting the career expectations of millennials as they enter the workforce.

Do you know of another brand that is highly committed to a Social Responsibility program? Post your success story here.

Here’s one! Each May Delta Airlines shows their commitment to the American Cancer Society by hosting a Relay for Life event at Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta. Employees form teams and compete to fundraise, win the spirit award and the jet drag. We’re so proud to be involved and to have helped the HR team win!




Tagged: Brand loyalty, Corporate Responsibility, Leadership Marketing, Life Science, Pharma, Public Relations, Recruitment, Trends

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