Cause Marketing: A Far Cry from Corporate Social Responsibility
By Chris Rosica, Author, “The Business of Cause Marketing”
Embracing a cause makes good business sense. Nothing builds brand loyalty among today’s increasingly hard-to-please consumers like a company’s proven commitment to a worthy cause — consumers would rather do business with a company that stands for something beyond profits. (One recent study showed that nearly 80 percent of people are more likely to buy from a corporation that supports a non-profit organization.)
Many corporations execute seasonal cause marketing campaigns that are often deemed contrived and opportunistic. But, supporting a behemoth cancer organization during holiday times for example is not apt to engage customers and employees as would an ongoing volunteer program with a worthy cause.
But, inexplicably, most PR counselors do not recommend year-round strategic cause-marketing campaigns for their clients. Cause marketing is a strategicpartnership that leverages the public’s desire for businesses to adopt corporate social responsibility as a principle. Cause-related marketing goes beyond simply donating a percentage of a company’s profit to a charity. It positions a social agenda as a platform for a marketing campaign, which has a positive domino effect. It is a way to merge a company’s profit center with its “passion center” and build a business that mirrors the company and personal values, beliefs and integrity. If the cause resonates with your target market, your activities will generate tremendous goodwill and media attention.
Under a strategic cause-related marketing campaign, a company incorporates a philanthropic agenda as part of its year round marketing strategy, garnering ongoing media attention and visibility through various cause-related events, public relations activities, internal communications, merchandising, advertising, package design, online social media and marketing and the like. Cause-marketing principles can be applied to any business model, whether the corporation is business-to-business or business-to-consumer, regardless of company size. An intelligent cause-related marketing campaign can positively differentiate company A from company B and provide an edge that delivers tangible benefits, including: increased sales, improved employee morale, increased customer loyalty, enhanced company image, positive media exposure and preventing crises from arising.
Cause marketing and corporate social responsibility are often used interchangeably, yet a vast difference lies in the long-term success that only cause marketing can foster. Mainstream America believes that because corporations have deep resources, they should devote some profits to addressing social issues. In today’s corporate culture, companies are encouraged and often expected to give back and embrace a philosophy of corporate social responsibility. Corporate social responsibility, which is based on the belief that a company should give selflessly without financial benefit to itself, differs vastly from cause marketing.
Smart companies can create a successful cause marketing campaign by taking the following steps:
- Identify the objectives in the following categories: increasing sales, increasing brand awareness and equity; improving employee morale; preventing or managing crises; and creating a fresh publicity strategy;
- Select the right primary cause partner: searching for a cause that is neutral, which the majority of the population can embrace and would provide good “pictures;” offering time and commitment to efforts and be willing to commit to media relations; and find an up-and-coming nonprofit which needs exposure;
- Establish the partnership: clearly identifying your role and commitment, including employee volunteerism, online presence, and establishing reasonable expectations, including reciprocal advocacy;
- Develop and implement the cause-marketing campaign: selecting a company spokesperson; drafting compelling news releases; conducting events that will be “mediagenic;” and writing op-ed pieces regarding the efficacy of the cause;
- Measure results: have sales and awareness increased? Is employee morale and retention improved? Is online reputation managed? Has a fresh publicity strategy emerged?
Doing good not only helps a company do well and realize its goals, but also promotes the cause and inspires others to join forces in making a difference. As an example, Ben and Jerry’s often site the Famous Amos partnership with Literacy Volunteers of America as one of the reasons they were inspired to give back to the community for so many years.
If the aforementioned steps are followed, your cause marketing campaign will outsmart the competition, undoubtedly earn customer loyalty, improve employee morale, and increase brand awareness and sales, even during economic slowdowns. More step-by-step instructions on positioning a social agenda as a platform for a smart cause marketing campaign, can be found inThe Business of Cause Marketing, www.causemarketingbook.com.