Every marketer is searching for an edge, whether its the edge they need to do a quick line off, or an irresistible reason that will convince potential customers to pick their product from a sea of competitors, or click on the “buy now” button. Price cuts, special sales and bonuses can work but have a limited shelf life. Great advertising or viral content can provide an increase in sales, but only temporarily.
But the holy grail – for socially-conscious companies which can carry it off believably and effectively – is a successful cause marketing campaign. It builds brand loyalty and benefits society at large while boosting sales from devoted customers over the long term.
What Is Cause Marketing?
Generally speaking, cause marketing combines the sale of a company’s products or services with a campaign to raise funds (or awareness) for a non-profit charity or organization. A campaign may be motivated simply by an opportunity to capitalize on a charity’s existing goodwill. More often, however, it’s an extension of the firm’s core values represented by its corporate social responsibility policies. Successful marketing campaigns don’t just happen. Here are six tips for running a cause marketing campaign which will benefit all involved.
There are thousands of worthwhile charities and non-profits, but most won’t be a good match for your business. A mom-and-pop hardware store probably will not be able to enlist a worldwide, multi-million dollar charity as an enthusiastic and willing partner, just as a major nationwide chain isn’t going to “waste” its fundraising ability on the Podunk Little League. Develop a relationship with a charity which matches the scale of your business.
The benefits of a cause marketing partnership are maximized when a company’s primary business, values and audience match the non-profit’s goal or beneficiaries. That means there should be a natural affinity between the company, its consumer base and the charity.
The reasons should be obvious. First, consumers are most likely to be engaged and willing to help an organization, when the charity’s purpose aligns with their personal values and interests. Second, they’ll quickly recognize whether the company’s support of the charity is opportunistic or in line with the firm’s core values. If the affinity between business and non-profit isn’t perceived as sincere, customers may still contribute but the campaign won’t lead to long-term consumer brand loyalty. In short, a cause-related marketing partnership between a pet food chain and an organization that finds homes for abandoned pets makes sense, both for the company and the charity. A campaign to benefit environmental causes that are initiated by an energy or chemical company is unlikely to gain traction.
A cause marketing campaign run by marketing department employees is, of necessity, limited in scale. Involving the company’s entire staff vastly increases the number of people actively involved in running and promoting the campaign. Just as importantly – or even more importantly – employee involvement reinforces their belief in their employer’s corporate social responsibility, cementing a bond based on shared values and goals. In many cases, it turns the employees into the best spokespeople and evangelists a company could ever find.
A good cause-marketing campaign won’t rely only on the company and a charity partnering to raise money. It will also engage the customer base, encouraging participation with more than just spare change or a credit card. The success of fundraising campaigns has always depended greatly on word-of-mouth. Today, that means depending on the Internet. It should be easy for engaged customers and donors to spread the word about the charity and the cause they’re supporting; that means creating an effective hashtag for the campaign, and branding interesting (and potentially viral) content which can be posted or retweeted by customers and supporters of the charity.
It’s wonderful when a successful cause-related marketing campaign raises lots of money for a worthwhile organization. The goodwill and loyalty that’s generated can also benefit a company greatly. However, there’s a larger opportunity which shouldn’t be missed. People love “stuff.” It doesn’t matter whether it’s t-shirts, hats, coffee mugs, beer koozies or even pens, they love getting “stuff.” A cause campaign might include something as simple as selling branded apparel with profits going to the charity, or as intricate as a multi-level contribution system with branded premiums dependent on the level of giving. Either way, goodies emblazoned with your name and/or logo will live on long after the campaign is over, permanently linking your company with the charity – and with the good works you’ve done.
A successful cause marketing campaign is “cause” for celebration. But building a campaign into a long-running tradition, with different twists each year to keep things fresh, is the best way to maximize a company’s identification with the charity – and to maintain the company’s connection with customers who appreciate and reward its corporate social responsibility.