Cause marketing or cause-related marketing refers to a type of marketing involving the cooperative efforts of a for-profit business and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit. With so many companies coming around to the notion of “doing well by doing good”—a phrase that was coined at the advent of the “green” movement and made mainstream by the book Green to Gold by Esty and Winston—this represents the next new way to break through the noise of traditional advertising and marketing messaging.
And I think it’s great.
Not great that there’s the next new hot thing in marcom, but great in that it is serving a higher purpose. Because for a company to be able to associate with and communicate a cause in a creative way, they first must adopt a cause and actively support it. This is leading to greater visibility for some larger global issues and gives the consumer a sense of contributing when they buy the product.
Your company does not have to be a Fortune 500 in order to adopt a cause or support a charity. You can do so at any level. Here are some Dos and Don’ts to help you make it count from a “doing good” and a “doing well” standpoint:
- Be Relevant: Of the cause TV ads aired during the past two or three Super Bowls, this year’s Colgate “Every Drop Counts” commercial was my favorite. It was actually my favorite ad of the game overall for a lot of reasons. Colgate makes toothpaste. And there are only so many creative ways left to talk about how your toothpaste will whiten teeth, fight cavities, prevent gum disease, blah, blah, blah, better than the next one. But to relate the act of brushing your teeth to Colgate’s Bright Smiles, Bright Futures cause was really effective. Who didn’t either turn an inquiring eye around the room, even, like me, speak out and say, ”Okay, everybody in here turns off the water while brushing, and teaches your kids to do it, too, right?” or even sat in silence feeling guilty because you really do leave the water running. Not only that, but you automatically start thinking about other times when you might be wasting water…like standing around in the shower 10 minutes too long.
- Be Authentic: I’m not sure the NFL was authentic during the past two years’ “No More” campaign. They mean well. And it’s a serious issue that they are poised to address. But is Eli Manning, a seemingly squeaky-clean, out-of-the-limelight kind of guy, a believable person to participate in the message? Especially when Rihanna, an actual victim of domestic violence, was cut from the 2014 season opener to not draw attention to the Ray Rice incident? Wouldn’t she have been a more authentic spokesperson in that campaign?
- Be Part of a Larger Initiative: Cause marketing should be an extension of your overall Corporate Social Responsibility initiative. Again, you don’t have to be a large corporation to develop a well-thought out, relevant, authentic plan, but whatever cause you adopt should have other components, such as giving back or volunteering opportunities for employees and an environmental responsibility aspect. Think People, Planet, Philanthropy.
- Bring Us Down: The Super Bowl tends to be the air time and place for companies to make bold statements. And we’ve come to rely on those bold statements to also be funny and entertaining. There have been some great serious spots; Chrysler has had some really dramatic and well-done ads for the past several years. But even in this era of cause marketing, some can go too far. Who can forget the Nationwide Insurance commercial about preventable accidents that featured a dead child? Make a statement? Sure did. Was it effective? No way. People were too upset about it to focus on the core message. Not to mention upset because it was a downer for the whole fun Super Bowl experience.
- Be A One-off: Referring back to the third ‘Do’: Be Part of A Larger Initiative, don’t create a commercial or ad once and then not keep the message going. With the Nationwide commercial, it is actually part of their ongoing Make Safe Happen initiative, but after the Super Bowl spot debacle, we’ve never heard another word about it with the exception of the website. It’s almost like they tried cause marketing, it was a big fail, and then they stuck with Peyton Manning humming the jingle…nice and safe and comfortable. They should try again. The Colgate Every Drop Counts ad made us stop and think, even if we felt a little guilty. And it prompted positive action. The Nationwide spot was too creepy and made us feel so uncomfortable. They have an important message and should find another way to get parents to stop, think, become aware, and take preventative measures with help from the tools on the Nationwide site.
- Get Old: Keep the same cause, continue to grow and develop your Corporate Social Responsibility plan and initiatives, and find new ways to communicate your message and engage your customers through your website and social media channels. If your audience participates in your cause, they will likely become loyal customers.