I’m officially declaring that selling causes is now an industry. Conferences, newsletters, specialists, advertising agencies, books, and blogs are dedicated to advancing, and profiting from, cause marketing. Brands are routinely being associate with causes, celebrities are spokespeople for charities, and fundraising has become entrenched in schools, businesses, and communities.
What’s really remarkable is that, as recently as five years ago, cause marketing was given short shrift by the mainstream marketing and advertising community. However, as cause marketing has moved from the margins to the mainstream, its ability to positively influence consumers has diminished.
As cause marketing has become ubiquitous, many consumers simply don’t notice or care about how brands have linked themselves with social issues and community organizations. Others are more likely to be skeptical of brands that incorporate causes in their marketing mix. A third group find corporations that adopt cause marketing to be offensive and opportunistic and may go as far as boycotting their brands.
Now that cause marketing has become as important, and as generic as every other marketing technique, what can you do to maximize your investment in this area?
1. Make sure you’re aligned with an issue that reflects the social purpose of your company (it should be a very close fit with your company’s history, culture, and products/ services). It should also be an issue that matters to your employees and to your customers.
2. Work in partnership with a non-profit organization that is regarded as an authority by your employees and customers. It’s surprising how often corporations deploy cause programs without non-profit partners or with organizations that are obscure or irrelevant.
3. Make your cause marketing programmatic and outcome-oriented rather than transactional (5% of sales of XZY brand goes to ABC organization). No one will pay attention to how much money has been raised. People will notice, and be influenced by, what’s been accomplished.