When for-profit companies such as American Express, Starbucks, Warby Parker, and Reebok want to express their corporate social responsibility (CSR), they turn to cause marketing. Despite being a relatively young marketing concept, cause marketing has blossomed in recent years thanks in part to the idea of “doing well while doing good.”
As cause marketing can appear in a variety of forms, this article will highlight how corporations can partner with nonprofit organizations to effectively action and manage a cause marketing campaign.
What is cause marketing?
Before we jump into the do’s and don’ts of cause marketing, we need to clarify just exactly what it is.
By definition, cause marketing is the expressed partnership between a nonprofit(s) and its business partner(s). Also known as cause-related marketing, the concept became highly visible during the 1980s when American Express partnered with the Restoration Fund, a nonprofit looking to restore the Statue of Liberty back to its former self.
The fruitful partnership gave way to other companies fully embracing cause marketing. As global consumers continue to pursue socially and environmentally responsible products and services, cause marketing has grown. In 1990, it was a USD $120 million industry. In 2017, it has turned into a USD $2 billion industry.
Through cause marketing, both partners profit. Nonprofits gain the financial aid they seek and a higher public profile, while corporations are seen as socially responsible by their customers.
With this in mind, let’s examine certain dos and don’ts that contribute to a successful cause-related marketing campaign.
DO: Choose a cause aligned with business values
When determining the right cause marketing for your business, evaluate your practices and principles, and align yourself with a nonprofit that supports your goals and activities.
A partnership that does not fit in with your business’ values won’t strike the desired chord you want from your customers. It may even discourage part of your target market from engaging with your chosen partnership.
Get to know your target market and understand the values and causes important to them. This will guide your cause marketing to a strategic partnership that reflects and supports your business values and goals.
DON’T: Simply make a statement
Cause marketing is all about socially and environmentally engaging with their target audience. When brands engage in cause marketing campaigns to simply make a statement, they undermine the focus of their message.
If you don’t believe in the cause or the issue, don’t attempt to fake it by making statements.
Success in cause marketing entails contributing to efforts from the heart and partnering with the right organization. Simply making a statement to create a stir will make people forget about the core message of your campaign.
DO: Be honest and transparent
Consumers want to see the truth about a brand’s CSR efforts. They want to know how brands support causes within cause marketing campaigns. The more transparency and honesty a brand presents to the consuming public, the more trust is engendered to the brand. This will result in higher campaign engagement and, more importantly, increased sales of products and services.
Avoid statements like “portions of profits” as this fosters public mistrust. Instead, be transparent and share the details of your campaign with your target audience.
DON’T: Fake your concern
Consumers are more sophisticated today than they’ve ever been. And in this age where tools like social media and the Internet are powerful drivers for engagement, authenticity matters. Consumers today are increasingly becoming wary and can see through stunts that don’t align with a brand’s values or cause.
To carve a permanent space in your target market’s hearts and minds, put your money where your mouth is. Alignment is necessary to ensure your brand’s socially-minded efforts remain authentic.
DO: Measure the effectiveness of your campaign
Like any other marketing campaign, the success of your cause marketing efforts should provide measurable results. Measuring the effectiveness of your cause marketing campaign will highlight the successes and failings of your campaign.
Outlining your campaign with objectives and parameters will enable your brand to continually learn from your target audience, improving the effectiveness of your efforts.
DON’T: Forget its true purpose
At its core, cause marketing is simply that, a marketing campaign. And the purpose of any marketing campaign is to derive value, benefiting your brand across multiple channels and reaching customers. Despite the social goodness cause marketing brings, you are still running a business.
This means that your cause marketing campaign is still responsible for achieving your goals. Whether that’s increasing revenue, brand awareness, or introducing a new product, the focus of your cause marketing campaign should remain on increasing business for your company.
Success in cause marketing stems from operating campaigns that strike at the core values of your target audience. In this era of corporate social responsibility, brands can greatly benefit from engaging in cause marketing efforts provided they promote with the aforementioned guidelines in mind.