Philip Morris, Save Your $100 Million and Walk the Talk
After a 40-year history of marketing tobacco products, how can Philip Morris denounce the safety of cigarettes the same day it touts its good will?
Carol Cone, a leading expert in Cause Branding and founder of Boston-based Cone, Inc., a firm that links companies and causes, says that Philip Morris' attempt to leverage its community programs while admitting the serious health risks associated with smoking could re-fuel the waning public cynicism of companies aligned with social issues.
According to the 1999 Cone/Roper Cause Related Trends Report, overall acceptability of cause marketing as a business practice has increased eight percentage points from 66% in 1993 to 74% in 1998. This five-year longitudinal research proves that Americans today are more sophisticated than ever and expect companies to be good corporate citizens and support causes they care about. College students around the country, for instance, drove Nike to make public where they manufacture college apparel so that people can monitor human rights issues.
There is an emerging strategy of companies aligning with causes in deep, substantive ways. Today's leaders are making long-term commitments to social issues that are relevant to their employees, consumers, and community. A majority of consumers are familiar with Avon's commitment to breast cancer, McDonald's history of supporting children with cancer through its Ronald McDonald Houses, and The Home Depot's long-standing support of community service. Philip Morris' advertisements will muddy the water for those companies who have earned the accolades after years of working with the community to build partnerships that make a significant impact on causes.
Philip Morris' corporate image campaign is not a remedy for its problems, but rather a superficial attempt to burnish the company's negative image by wrapping itself in the mantle of good will. Philip Morris should be criticized and its activities should not be mistaken for the typical behavior of socially responsible companies today.
A company's values are reflected in its daily operations. Philip Morris produces and markets cigarettes that are inevitably smoked by youths. No advertisement will ever undo the company's long history of promoting smoking.
Carol Cone is available for an interview at 617.227.2111 or in person.
Cone, Inc. has commissioned the country's most comprehensive cause-related trend data and developed some of the nation's most successful cause programs, including the Avon Breast Cancer Awareness Crusade, the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program's public awareness program, among others.