DAWN State’s top-selling dishwashing liquids. Over the


         Introduced in 1973, Dawn Dish Soap has consistently been one
of the United State’s top-selling dishwashing liquids. Over the years Dawn’s
parent company, Procter & Gamble (P&G), has had high levels of success
for the brand due to a combination of: the timing of economic and environmental
crisis (i.e. recessions and oil spills); a long tradition of partnership and
support of wildlife rescue and animal rehabilitation; and its numerous
effective cause-marketing strategies.

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         In this essay I will outline the Corporate Social Responsibility
(CSR) activities and strategies of Dawn, while critically analyzing the brand’s
motivations for these activities. From combining the research I have done on
this company and what I have learned throughout this module, it is evident that
Dawn provides an excellent and unique case study on how a business can
successfully exhibit its values and commitment to local communities through CSR,
and remain consistent in managing and sustaining competitive advantage over its
competition over time.

         “Corporate social responsibility (policy, program or
process) is strategic when it yields substantial business related benefits to
the firm, in particular by sup- porting core business activities and thus
contributing to the firm’s effectiveness in accomplishing its mission” (Burke
& Logsdon, 1996). This statement from the literature has proven true for
Dawn when analyzing the relationship of the company’s business strategy and its
CSR. However, the mentioning of, “yielding substantial business related
benefits,” raises the question of whether Dawn actually cares about the CSR
they engage in or if they care more about boosting their public image and their
return on investment.

         In this essay I will attempt to display a comprehensive
approach to measuring how Dawns CSR activities have jointly served its economic
and societal interests. My approach will mirror that of Burke and Logsdon’s
research in 1996 which focused on “five dimensions of corporate strategy, which
are both critical to the success of the firm and useful in relating CSR
policies, programs and processes to value creation by the firm” (Burke &
Logsdon, 1996). These five dimensions of strategic CSR are: Centrality,
Specificity, Proactivity, Voluntarism and Visibility. We also explored these
dimensions heavily in lecture 3 from the module. However, before I explore
these in more depth it is important to mention a little about Dawn’s background
and how they became involved in their CSR activities.

Unique Product Placement

         “Recession and oil spills
are certainly bad, but they’ve ultimately helped sell Procter & Gamble Co’s
Dawn dish soap” (Neff, 2010). The birth of Dawn in the 1970s could not have been
more perfect because a few years after P introduced the brand, extensive
research was being conducted in Berkley, California at the International Bird
Rescue Research Center (IBRRC). Research, which aimed to find the best product
for cleaning up birds affected by oil spills. “More than 22 products were
tested…some were effective at removing oil but was irritating to the birds skin
and difficult to rinse from the birds plumage” (Russell, Holcomb & Berkner,
2003). The results of the tests showed that Dawn was the best product for the
job. Jay Holcomb, executive director of the IBRRC said, “It cut the oil faster
than anything else” (Newman, 2009)

organization was able to put Dawn’s power to the test for the first time
following the 1980 Platte River Spill. Staff members were “pleased with the
product’s ability to remove the fuel oil from the birds’ feathers during the
washing process” (Russell et al., 2003). Response teams were able to depend on
the dish detergent to do their jobs more efficiently and gave them the ability
to help more marine fowl than previous industrial solvents did. The IBRRC reached
out to P&G to inform them of their findings however, the company did not
agree to donate cases of the product until l988, about one year prior to the Exxon
Valdez spill. During this environmental crisis, response teams “used Dawn on
crude-covered birds, and the brand figured prominently in media accounts of the
disaster, as it has in animal-rescue coverage since” (Newman, 2009).

         Moving forward into the year 2010, Dawn has become one of the
countries most widely publicized dish soap brands. The United States was
recovering from its most recent recession, which “was a boon for dish soap
generally as people ate out less and home more…causing dish soap sales to rise
7%” (Neff, 2010). Leading up to the 40th anniversary celebration of Earth Day,
P&G decided to begin a new campaign highlighting its 30-year support of
bird rescue groups.

         Their plan was to donate $1 to wildlife organizations for
every specially marked bottle they sold. This campaign was effectively aided by
advertisements portraying “blackened baby otters and ducklings emerging
cleansed by a Dawn bubble bath” (Kaufman, 2010), a committed website
(dawnsaveswildlife.com) and a growing Facebook page. “The goal was to donate
$500,000. But just two days short of Earth Day the Deepwater Horizon oil rig
exploded, leaking 60,000 barrels of oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico and
killing eleven workers—and untold birds and fish” (Ottman, 2015).

         This catastrophe, also known as the BP Oil Spill, created an
unanticipated demand for the household dish soap. “It’s not the kind of luck
Procter & Gamble Co was looking for, but its Dawn dish soap was one of the
few brand beneficiaries” (Neff, 2010) of the environmental crisis. Dawn’s newly
launched campaign was able to reach and exceed its donation goal of $500,000
and the company also “took the initiative of shipping thousands bottles of dish
soap to the Gulf region where the oil was expected to hit” (Gupta, 2015).

         Throughout this time Dawn’s heartfelt commercials and
advertisements continuously circulated in the media even after the crisis was
alleviated. Its bottles still pictured the washing of cute animals that urged
customers to buy their brand over their competitors in order to help donate to
a greater cause. This is where criticism began to arise. Dawn was now being
scrutinized for the “convenient timing of their marketing campaign” (Ottman, 2015).
Studies even revealed that the washing of the birds with Dawn didn’t guarantee
their survival once returned into the wild.

         From analyzing Dawn’s CSR strategies along with the added
economic and environmental issues at the time, do their motives for engaging seem
authentic or more profit driven? How did the company’s strategic reorientation
of its CSR philosophy support its financial interests as well as other stakeholder
interests in the firm? Was Dawn in the wrong for how they promoted their CSR
efforts despite all the good they did for wildlife initiatives? I will attempt
to answer these questions, and others, through the application and examination
of the five dimensions of corporate strategy mentioned earlier in this essay.


         The research conducted by Burke and Logsdon used “this
broader set of criteria or dimensions to capture the full range of strategic
behavior and opportunities for business to benefit from CSR” (Burke &
Logsdon, 1996). They believe that from these dimensions, value creation is traditionally
the most fundamental objective for a company and its strategic decision-making
process. Figure 1 from lecture 3 describes the expansion of these dimensions of
value creation and their correlation to definitions of strategy explained in
the module as well as in the literature.

1: Centrality

         “Centrality is a measure of the closeness of fit between a
CSR policy or program and the firm’s mission and objectives” (Burke &
Logsdon, 1996). The program in which the company chooses to engage in should
encompass the goals and objectives of the company itself. Looking at Dawn and
their work with the IBRRC, initially this relationship is not clear. How could
a P&G dish detergent company profit by investing in a wildlife
rehabilitation center? Usually a company chooses which non-profit organizations
to focus their corporate philanthropy, however in this case study the roles
were reversed.

         Dawn was found as the best product for the IBRRC to clean
birds affected by oil spills. This was a golden opportunity for the firm
especially after the major oil spills that had occurred. There was essentially
no trade-off between CSR and corporate financial performance (CFP). The cooperation
of the two created benefits for all stakeholders involved on both sides. This occurrence is rare within
a business context but it gave Dawn the opportunity to effectively reorient its
mission and objectives to reflect their CSR engagement with the IBRRC. They
were also able to achieve a high level of competitive advantage through this
relationship, which leads into the second dimension of corporate strategy,

2: Specificity

         “Specificity refers to the
firm’s ability to capture or internalize the benefits of a CSR program, rather
than simply creating collective goods which can be shared by others in the
industry, community or society at large” (Burke & Logsdon, 1996). Even
though Dawn’s product was “specific” in helping the environment and wildlife
during the oil spills, this is not the specificity this dimension is referring
to. A cleaner environment and cleaning of marine animals is a benefit shared by
multiple stakeholders within the industry. 

         Specificity focuses on the benefits that are highly specific
to the firm itself and from Dawn’s CSR strategies; a focus on it’s cause-related
marketing (CRM) will offer a perfect example of this dimension. CRM can be
defined as, “a combination of marketing and CSR, which provides firms with
opportunities to manage their community relationships and to enhance their
marketing, financial, social, and environmental performance” (Liu & Ko, 2014).
Dawn’s utilization of effective CRM strategies can be observed in the ways they
promoted their wildlife campaign during the time of the 2010 BP Oil Spill.

         The brands adoption of a growing social media trend placed
Dawn in the public eye in a way that no other dish detergent was able to do. Through
their “Dawn Saves Wildlife” website and their Facebook page they were able to
get the consumers involved in their CSR efforts. Linda Kaplan Thaler, chief
executive of the Kaplan Thaler Group said, “the website and Facebook group were
inspired not by an advertising campaign but by a political one…Instead of
getting a few people to contribute a lot of money, the Obama campaign got a lot
of people to give a little” (Newman, 2009). Supplemented by a number of
heartfelt advertisements, Dawn created a competitive advantage over other dish
soap brands by making consumers feel obligated to not only buy their specially
marked bottles, but also visit the website in order to contribute to the
company’s donations. The company’s marketing strategy will also be analyzed
within the measure of Productivity. 

3: Productivity

         Business strategists have long
identified proactivity as an important characteristic of CSR in regards to planning
and scanning systems (Burke & Logsdon, 1996). Dawn demonstrated this
dimension in their corporate strategy as they publicized and promoted their
30-year long support of wildlife in anticipation of the 40th
anniversary of Earth Day. After the 1990s, which saw the development of radical
environmentalism in response to corporate mistreatment of the land, environmental
protection was alternately depicted as being religious (Ellingson, Woodley
& Paik, 2012). Dawn’s ability to recognize this emerging trend was critical
for their success at the time. The changes they made to their bottles, mission
and corporate goals better positioned the brand to take advantage of opportunities
that came about. Going back to the example of the BP Oil spill, their product
was already in the hands of the IBRRC and other wildlife conservationist groups
to be used in this state of turmoil.

         Now, the research states “firms must constantly scan their
environments to anticipate changes likely to affect the firm” (Burke &
Logsdon, 1996). In Dawn’s case there was no way for the company to anticipate
such a disaster to occur. There was also no way for them to realize their
product would become the best for cleaning oil-covered birds without the
research on the IBRRC. This lucky example of product placement provides a
unique analysis for this dimension of corporate strategy.

4: Voluntarism

         Aside from normal business activities, which can be
considered voluntary to some extent, “voluntarism indicates the scope of
discretionary decision-making by the firm with the absence of externally imposed
compliance requirements” (Burke & Logsdon, 1996). For Dawn it is hard to
ignore their decades of voluntary and philanthropic contributions to the IBRRC.
The firm was not under any pressure to become involved with this organization,
but their engagement offered both strategic and social responsibility payoffs.

         In the context of voluntarism, Dawn’s motivations can be speculated
as being altruistic but I believe they were more product motivated. This
situation happens less often but occurs “when there is a direct link between
what an organization does or makes, and what a social problem needs” (Harquail,
2010). This type of correlation would allow a firm to make a commitment to an
organization because they can contribute in a unique way. In Dawn’s case they
had the perfect cleaning solution for oiled birds.

5: Visibility

         The last and final dimension of corporate strategy is visibility,
which “denotes both the observability of a business activity and the firm’s
ability to gain recognition from internal and external stakeholders” (Burke
& Logsdon, 1996). A firm with high positive visibility, like Dawn, would be
able to produce a number of economic benefits for the company itself. Such
benefits enjoyed by the P&G brand were; customer loyalty, increased profits
and frequent supportive media coverage. Spokeswoman for P&A, Susan Baba,
said in a statement, “An oil spill is exactly the situation where Dawn is able
to help and exactly what we want communicated about the product: tough on
grease, yet gentle,” (Kaufman, 2010).

This could then lead to an
increase in the company’s chances at attracting and retaining the best
employees as well. Negative visibility would result in the exact opposite to
occur for a company’s employee retainment, which is the main focal point of
this dimension of corporate strategy.


         In the end, a corporation’s
main reason for engaging in CSR activities is to benefit from the potential
created value of their efforts. The slides from lecture 5 of the module stated,
“better socially managed & performing companies will lead to better
long-term value creation for investors.” The investors of Dawn clearly
experienced value creation through their CSR activities. Decades of support for
the IBRRC and the unforeseen environmental necessity of their product created a
high level of success and brand awareness for the company. Making its brand an
exceptional case study for this corporate strategy