What is Cause Marketing and Why are Big Brands Doing It? 6 Steps to Get Started
You may have heard of a social good company like Toms, which gives a pair of shoes to someone in need for every one purchased, but cause marketing is more than a trend for optimistic entrepreneurs. Some of the world’s biggest brands like Coca Cola, Unilever, and Walmart are investing in purposeful initiatives that give back to the planet as well as their bottom lines.
So, What is Cause Marketing Exactly?
Cause marketing is the corporate practice of aligning with a good cause and promoting that activity to increase consumer interest, engagement and purchases.
Corporate good-doing goes back centuries; however, cause marketing was officially coined in the 1980’s when American Express helped restore the Statue of Liberty and Carol Cone launched a walking campaign for Rockport Shoe Company that mobilized the brand to scale from a small business into a national staple.
Over the years, cause marketing has grown from an adolescent into an adult and so has the nomenclature. Some experts criticize cause marketing campaigns for leveraging good deeds as a public relations stunt rather than a means to drive authentic social transformation. In response, many purposeful business leaders now use metrics and benchmarks to quantify and scale initiatives that create real social change and the term “corporate purpose” has prevailed to reference measurable social impact in the private sector.
In recent years, the widespread use of the internet and social media have increased transparency and consumer activism. People around the world now actively influence brand storytelling and share their support for corporations contributing to social good, while they simultaneously blast those that aren’t doing their part. What’s more, our planet faces unprecedented social and environmental crisis that require more resources than governments and nonprofits can provide. Today’s corporate leaders are stepping up to the plate to catalyze social transformation while simultaneously growing consumer advocacy and profits.
Doing Good Feels Good and It Fuels Profitable Growth
A recent global study of nearly 10,000 consumers showed that 91 percent of people expect companies to do more than make money by practicing socially and environmentally responsible business. Additionally, 84 percent said they prefer purchasing responsible products and 90 percent would boycott a brand for irresponsible behavior.
Millennials and generation Z – the future motor of global capitalism – are particularly conscious of corporate behavior. Another survey (paywall) found that 82 percent of millennials and generation Z actively purchase from brands that contribute to causes they care about and 82 percent said they feel better about spending when they buy products or services from a company invested in social good.
An awesome example of a brand using purposeful cause marketing strategies to scale profits is Unilever. The global conglomerate, which owns hundreds of consumer goods brands, recently disclosed that its portfolio companies practicing and promoting social and environmental good – like Dove and Ben and Jerry’s – grew 30 percent faster than those that don’t. Additionally, those purposeful brands carried almost half of Unilever’s expansion in 2015.
In today’s digitally connected, socially conscious world It’s clear that purpose powers profits and companies that practice what they preach will receive consumer support and purchases.
6 Steps to Increase Social Impact and ROI
1. Clarify Brand Authenticity
Before you get started with your own purpose-driven cause marketing campaign be sure to identify and articulate your authentic brand values. In other words, think about what your brand stands for, what your target audience cares about, why a certain cause or movement is particularly important to your company and how you can fit into the broader ecosystem of social change.
2. Pick a Relevant Cause
Once you’ve clarified what your brand stands for and how it fits into the web of global good-doing start honing in on a specific issue. This can be overwhelming because there are so many good causes in the world and so many people and places that need help. While you can eventually expand your social good campaigns to include multiple projects, it’s important to start with a single project that displays clarity and direction. An excellent way to narrow down options is to identify a problem that resonates with your brand and community.
3. Make Partnerships
Now that you’ve picked your cause, do some research on how other organizations are addressing the problem you want to fix. In this stage it’s important to select several potential partner organizations because everyone you want to partner with may not want to partner with you. If you’re working with a non-profit organization be sensitive to how they represent themselves. It may go against their internal culture to blatantly promote your sponsorship on their website or social media channels. Be flexible to branding strategy and partnership specifics. This will help you establish long-lasting mutually beneficial relationships.
Just as there are many roads to Rome, there are many ways to give. A few ways that other brands contribute is by donating a percentage of sales to a good cause, giving a product away for every product sold and sponsoring an event that has a social impact. If you’re looking for strategy inspiration check out this post on 11 awesome social good marketing campaigns.
5. Share Your Story
Contributing to meaningful work is important for our planet but in terms of your bottom line it’s crucial to share your social good campaign with a relatable and compelling story. While consumers are indeed demanding corporate social responsibility, good deeds go unnoticed without effective cause marketing and your efforts could provide no return on investment. For this reason, it’s super important that you find a way to tell an emotionally riveting tale about the amazing work your company supports. Be sure to focus on how your work impacts an individual person rather than citing grandiose facts and global trends. Make it short and sweet. And provide viewers with an inside view into how their purchase is solving an important issue affecting our planet.
6. Take it Further
Way to go! If you’ve gotten this far you’re well on your way to using your business to create a positive social impact while strengthening consumer devotion and scaling profits. If you want to take your cause marketing campaigns even further, couple growth with impact. You can do this by building equitable and sustainable supply chains, strengthening employee community involvement and investing a portion of your profits in social good.
Consumers want companies to do good deeds, not just offer good products and services. In today’s globally connected and technologically attuned world people are eager to support brands making a positive impact. At the same time, consumers are ready to boycott companies that aren’t doing their part. And that’s especially true for millennials and generation Z who will inherit the problems of the world and drive future financial growth.
People are often overwhelmed with advertisements on the internet, social media, television and in print. To capture consumer attention, support and purchases, companies must build an emotional connection with their customers that goes beyond selling stuff and inspires the feeling of being part of a global community working to make the world a better place. Although technology and social media are rapidly changing, compelling storytelling and the need for a better planet are here to stay and so is cause marketing.
How do your favorite brands share their social good work?
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