Have you heard of No-Shave November (Movember), Veganuary, or The North Face “Walls Are Meant For Climbing” campaign? You most likely have. These are all popular examples of successful cause marketing campaigns that went viral on the internet.
Brands took to social issues to grab consumer's attention, find common ground and combat the same enemy — an issue they can unite over and stand together on. This creates not only a strong bond between the business and the consumer, but a level of trust and sincerity that other marketing efforts have yet to compete with.
Cause Marketing Explained
With so many different kinds of marketing, it’s easy to get lost in the mix. Not to mention, the industry is constantly evolving. So, you might be thinking what is cause marketing and why does it matter?
Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Cause marketing is marketing done by a for-profit business that aims to drive revenue and to improve society through corporate social responsibility. It takes standard marketing efforts and spins it to give it a philanthropic edge by collaborating with a non-profit to raise awareness for a cause. The business’s donation lets the public know that their brand is socially responsible and is invested in the same causes as their consumers.
The goal of cause marketing is to bring attention to a socially important issue while simultaneously increasing a business’s profit. Cause marketing typically includes a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship between a for-profit brand and a non-profit organization. The two entities collaborate and work together to give people the opportunity and knowledge they need to support a cause they believe in.
Both parties reap financial and societal benefits from engaging in cause marketing. The business anticipates driving sales while creating public awareness of its respectable social values and willingness to support good causes via social media and advertisements. Meanwhile, the nonprofit benefits by gaining more financing and visibility as a result of its partner's marketing efforts — it’s a win-win.
Social media is critical peice to to cause marketing. A campaign usually utilizes social media networks including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn to create a trending hashtag to get people talking and spread awareness. It is especially popular with younger generations who engage in internet activism. It allows people to effortlessly join the movement instantly from their mobile phone.
So now we know what cause marketing is, but what exactly does it look like?
How to Create a Successful Cause Marketing Campaign
- Find a cause that you and your employees are passionate about and believe in;
- Make sure the cause is related to your brand and aligns with your values and figure out what message you want your business to convey;
- Contribute more than just money — generating awareness is essential too;
- Work closely with a non-profit to maximize the effectiveness of your involvement in the campaign;
- Focus on social and earned media to optimize each channel and gain exposure;
- Bring in professionals who have expertise on the topic. You need more than money to run a successful cause marketing campaign — time and knowledge are just as valuable; and
- Start spreading awareness.
People like to feel good about what they are supporting and believe their actions count for something. According to a recent study, 96 percent of people feel their own actions, such as donating, recycling or buying ethically, can make a difference. So much so, that 91 percent of consumers reported they were likely to switch to a brand that supports a good cause, given similar price and quality. Businesses can capitalize on social issues by supporting the cause, gaining a following and driving sales.
There is no reason why a business can’t promote a good cause while simultaneously turning a hefty profit. Getting involved with a social cause can drive dramatic results from social media, and help show customers that you’re an genuine, well-intentioned brand that’s worthy of trust.
But to do so, brands must be authentically aligned with the cause or they will risk coming off as insincere — a mistake that businesses can’t afford to make. Consumers pick up on even the slightest discrepancies between what a brand promotes and what it actually does.
Authenticity is Key
Too many brands have tried to manipulate consumers and as such, faced huge public recoil due to their misguided cause marketing campaigns, lack of authenticity and appropriation of a sensitive topic or issue.
Now more than ever, consumers are holding businesses accountable and making them realize that social justice is not just a popular trend — if a brand wants to join the fight for social justice, the campaign has to have its roots in real activism. If your brand is bluffing or sending out issue-based messages with no plan of action or strategy, your consumers will pick up on this and your campaign will fail.
Consumers are watching your every move and are ready to call you out if you try to deliver an over-simplistic depiction of a complex and serious issue. This can backfire and ultimately damage your reputation.
Engaging in cause marketing can be risky — if you don’t have the right intentions. If you have a solid understanding of your customers and are being genuine in your social justice efforts, you have nothing to be afraid of. The risk is certainly worth the reward.
Why is Cause Marketing So Effective?
Roughly 56 percent of Americans will stop buying from brands that they believe are unethical. And many will start supporting a brand that they believe is. More and more people are gravitating towards brands with a purpose, who take a stand and stick up for what is right.
We are in the age of customer experience, so it’s critical for your business to master this strategy and understand what appeals to your customers. You will have to take a customer-centric approach and ensure that you deliver what your customers want, which is to be socially responsible and make a difference.
Brands aren’t competing based on price and product, but rather the user experience, and having similar values is an essential part of that experience.
Adopting a cause marketing campaign helps brands differentiate from the competition, drive business and gain a larger customer base while also doing their part to make the world a little bit better.
Are You Ready to Take on a Social Issue?
Of course, this marketing strategy can be taken advantage of or twisted, but at its core, it’s lucrative, effective and mutually advantageous. Companies that genuinely take a stand on a social issue and incorporate it into their marketing efforts will succeed. You are situating your brand at the forefront of a politically divisive issue, which inevitably generates visibility and turns a profit.
It's time to realize that donating money alone isn’t enough. With the growing awareness of inequality in the world, 80 percent of consumers believe that businesses must play a role in addressing societal issues. Brands should feel socially responsible to incorporate social good directly into their business model. It’s not all about raising money, but raising awareness and enacting change too.
If used appropriately, you can leverage cause marketing to gain unprecedented exposure and value generated by little investment, while also doing your part to make the world a better place.