By definition, cause marketing refers to a type of marketing involving the cooperative efforts of a for-profit business and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit. The term is sometimes used more broadly and generally to refer to any type of marketing effort for social and other charitable causes. Cause marketing differs from corporate giving (philanthropy), as the latter generally involves a specific donation that is tax-deductible, while cause marketing is a marketing relationship not necessarily based on a donation.
Although this might sound somewhat impersonal and a bit self-serving, it is a very common strategy used by many businesses today and integrated into a company’s overall marketing campaign.
Coming from the Heart
Speaking from a personal standpoint, using the act of philanthropy for sheer business advantage might steer away from the true and selfless act of giving back. Giving should come from the heart; an act of kindness and generosity towards an individual or group that positively impacts the quality of life and well-being of the recipient. I began my own philanthropic journey in my childhood, participating in charitable walks and runs at an early age when monetary donations were not an option. This grew into more involvement; working as a director for a non profit organization, hosting fundraising events, doing charity programs with my clients, donating when I could and physically committing my time to hands-on work. And I created this same environment for my children; the need to teach them altruistic behavior and help those that are less fortunate. Although it was a slow process (yes, it was hard for them to donate their Halloween candy to a shelter or miss a social event because they had committed their time to charity), I am content in knowing that it is part of their DNA. Personal involvement and engagement were key to making them see and feel their impact but, also, to connect with those not part of their everyday lives. When we played Santa to a family during the Holidays, we made sure to hand-deliver the gifts and when we wrote a check, we made sure to know exactly how the money would be used and for whom. I am a happy parent knowing that I raised my kids to be life-long givers.
How Businesses Benefit
Let’s now talk about this from a business standpoint. Yes, you can still get the “warm and fuzzies” from a well-executed cause marketing program. But at the same time, your company can also benefit from a branding perspective that can positively affect your overall business.
Today’s consumer is savvy and very socially conscious. The number of consumers who say they would switch from one brand to another if the other brand were associated with a good cause has climbed to 87 percent, a dramatic increase in recent years, according to a Cone Cause Evolution Survey.
And the numbers speak for themselves: Cause sponsorship is predicted to reach $2.00 billion in 2016, a projected increase of 3.7% over 2015. IEG Sponsorship Report Additionally, 72% of consumers have donated to a charity at the register and 65% of consumers felt positively about the retailers after giving. It’s not just the customers either; 93% of employees surveyed want to work for a company that cares about them as an individual, 51% won’t work for a company that doesn’t have strong social and environmental commitments and 74% say their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact at work.
So yes, we know it’s important but what’s the best way to create a cause marketing campaign? Here are a few tips on where to begin:
First, you need to “pull at those heartstrings” and find a non-profit that both you and your employees can connect and relate to. You’ll have lots to choose from so do your homework; research the world of non-profits (and categories) and reach out to your employees for their input.
Second, during your research phase, look for a non-profit that would be the right affiliation for you company. For example, if you are a manufacturer of kid’s footwear then look into children/youth related charities. Revlon is a women’s skin care, cosmetic and fragrance company that is major support of breast cancer causes. This makes sense because it aligns perfectly with its product and makes a connection to its consumer.
Third, monetary donations are great but also look to contribute more than just dollars. Offering product, services or even just manpower to an organization can connect you deeper. For example, the Foundation I worked on actually helped patients of the charity by directly paying their hospital bills, their rent, even their transportation costs. If you’re donating to a non-profit that needs equipment, office facilities, staffing, these are great opportunities to make it more meaningful and impactful for all involved.
Fourth, let it be known that you are now affiliated with this non-profit. Share logos, be included in one another’s newsletters, all social platforms and of course, websites. You’ve made the connection; you’ve made the commitment, now “get married” and spread the word.
Finally, as you get ready to launch your cause marketing campaign, think it through. Get creative, tie-in with other marketing initiatives and bring in this added component. You can launch your own fundraising event, designate product to raise money with “proceeds donated to…” If you happen to have a high-profile company spokesperson, use him/her as a vehicle for exposure and getting the word out. The audience on social is vast; create a call-to-action campaign that engages people and in the hopes of it becoming viral. One of my favorite campaigns right now is a call-to-action by Doritos. The company has teamed up with Rock the Vote and launched a limited edition bag created for those who are not registered to vote. The bag is empty, has not taste, no crunch and no chips to illustrate that, if you don’t make a choice, you don’t get a choice. This should get some chatter on social as well as support a “cause” (get out and vote). Additionally, Doritos has an election-themed contest on its website, encouraging consumers to “vote” for either of their favorite among two flavors. This is consumer engagement for a good cause and also, it promotes product at the same time. A win-win for all.
In conclusion, I leave you with one more statistic: 80% of global consumers agree that business must play a role in addressing societal issues. Lucky for us marketing professionals, the consumer wants and demands real, authentic and impactful give-back from the brands they purchase. So besides it being good for business, cause marketing is also good for the heart.
Image via kaboompics.com