If We Ran the World

Cindy Gallop Prepares to Launch a New CSR Model

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Cindy Gallop
Cindy Gallop
Consultant Cindy Gallop, former chairman of BBH, New York, is working to establish her vision for a new corporate-social-responsibility model through IfWeRanTheWorld.com, launching this fall. Here, she discusses her plans to transform CSR as it exists today.

Anyone who has worked with me knows that I am extremely action-oriented. I'm all about making things happen. And I have a low tolerance for people who complain about things but never do anything to change them. This led me to conclude that the single largest pool of untapped natural resources in this world is human good intentions that are never translated into actions.

There is another, almost equally large, untapped pool of resources: corporate good intentions. Many businesses have figured out that today's consumers expect them to earn the right to do business, so they have rolled out corporate-social-responsibility programs and dedicated substantial budgets to CSR. They employ teams of people to find effective ways to spend those budgets. Yet often the end results are less than effective, as witnessed by the proliferation of full-page newspaper ads saying, "Look how green we are," that nobody reads.

Despite their good intentions, today's businesses are missing an opportunity to integrate social responsibility and day-to-day business objectives -- to do good and make money simultaneously. If I ran the world, I would find a way to bring the wealth of human good intentions and corporate good intentions together -- to activate them collectively into shared action against shared objectives that produces shared hard, tangible results.

That is precisely why I am launching a unique web platform, IfWeRanTheWorld.com, that I believe will explode the existing CSR model in the marketplace both externally and internally.

The current external model (one subscribed to by many social enterprises) goes something like this: "Let's aggregate individuals around causes, and let's invite brands to 'sponsor' those causes." I use "sponsor" with caution because sponsorship often means "Hand over your money, and we'll stick your logo where it doesn't get in the way so we can carry on doing what we're doing and you can associate with us." The flaw in sponsorship is that it allows brands to affiliate but rarely to act. No real collective action or truly leveraged brand involvement takes place in a way that benefits both the cause and the business.

The internal CSR business model often sounds like this: "Oh, yes, we need to be a socially responsible corporation. We need to do something. Let's find some causes and support them." This kind of limited thinking prevents the integration of social responsibility into day-to-day business. It misses an opportunity to use CSR to actively drive growth and profitability.

IfWeRanTheWorld is an extremely simple web platform designed to turn good intentions into action. IfWeRanTheWorld will engage individuals via entertainment and gaming dynamics, and so generate opportunities to allow brands to implement tailored, customized action programs that integrate social responsibility with business goals. IfWeRanTheWorld will use a combination of crowd-sourcing and algorithms to answer the question "If you ran the world, what would you do?" in terms of tangible, achievable goals composed of a series of "micro-actions." In other words, it will connect you to a community of individuals and brands who share your goals and join you in breaking them down into easy steps everyone can commit to achieving.

The micro-action is the "atomic unit" of IfWeRanTheWorld in the same way that the tweet is the atomic unit of Twitter. In fact, it's the action equivalent of "140 characters or fewer." A micro-action is an incredibly small, simple action that is so easy to do, why wouldn't you do it? Micro-actions can be generated, matched with and picked up by anyone and sent out to friends, colleagues, brands, businesses, consumers and celebrities as targeted "Invitations to Act." The platform is designed to self-propagate as its own viral-action feedback loop. Brands can invite consumers to pick up micro-actions and vice versa.

User profiles can't be faked or crafted but are automatically generated by completed micro-actions, so that users self-identify and self-express as the sum of their actions. Literally, you are what you do. This results in "action branding": personal action branding for individuals and corporate action branding for brands and businesses.

Why is action branding important? Because the new marketing reality is complete transparency. Everything a brand does today is in the public domain. It's no longer possible to hide behind paid-for messaging or to craft a brand image. Today's marketing programs need to be designed both to allow for and to leverage real-time consumer response, organic development and constant disruption. The good news is there's a very simple solution: total brand honesty. Know what you stand for, be what you stand for and act on it, and you will build a positive image and impact.

I believe the advertising of the future is not about saying, but doing; not about telling, but being. Brands will be judged by their actions just as individuals are, and action branding is about messaging through demonstration -- walking the talk. Just as the power of crowd-sourcing and the ease of small increments have been tapped successfully with micro-finance by Kiva and micro-blogging by Twitter, micro-actions can offer, as digital guru Esther Dyson put it compellingly when I shared this concept with her, "liquidity of goodness."

Cindy Gallop is the founder and CEO of IfWeRanTheWorld, an extremely simple crowd-sourced web platform designed to turn good intentions into action that will be launched this fall. Ms. Gallop spent most of her advertising career at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, where she launched BBH New York. She continues to work as an advertising and marketing consultant and is an adviser to a number of technology and media startups. In 2003, Advertising Women of New York named her its Advertising Woman of the Year.
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