Cause marketing is a great way to promote your brand while doing good – if done well.
By David Hessekiel
Reams of well-publicized consumer research have significantly increased the ranks of business marketers who buy into the idea that companies can prosper in the U.S. and around the world by fielding products and campaigns aligned with social causes.
One example: the latest Cone Communications survey finds 94% of consumers say they would likely switch brands to one that supports a cause if both brands are of similar price and quality.
On the other hand, executives have seen that marketing linked to social causes can backfire if perceived to be inauthentic, deceptive or opportunistic. Like the criticism Kentucky Fried Chicken suffered over its Buckets for the Cure program with Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
When building a marketing-oriented social initiative, the road to success is paved with careful planning, attention to detail and a value enhancing, longer-term rather than quick promotional perspective.
Marketing-oriented promotions fall into three major categories: cause promotion, cause-related marketing and corporate social marketing. Here are three examples taken from Good Works! Marketing and Corporate Initiatives That Build a Better World and the Bottom Line that have yielded substantial business and social dividends.
1. Cause Promotion: Food Network & Share Our Strength
Companies engaging in cause promotion provide funds, in-kind contributions or other resources for communications that increase awareness and concern about a social cause or support fundraising, participation or volunteer recruitment.
Since 2007, supporting the anti-hunger group Share Our Strength has been the priority pro-social cause of Food Network, the cable television powerhouse. After several years of experimentation, Food Network’s support reached a whole new level in 2010 when Share Our Strength focused its communications around the goal of No Kid Hungry.
The network and one of its creative agencies donated their services to produce a public service announcement featuring actor Jeff Bridges to spread awareness of the issue of child hunger in America and encouraging them to support Share Our Strength. Exposure on air, online, and in Food Network Magazine along with as access to talent and other forms of promotion support was estimated at $20 million in 2011.
Signature programs benefiting Share Our Strength such as The Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival have raised millions for the charity over the years.
In addition to making a serious contribution to the child hunger crusade, Food Network’s involvement has generated plenty of sales, marketing, PR, online and programming opportunities, according to executives. For example, it has strengthened relations with key cable systems operators by collaborating with them on building edible classroom gardens at schools and community centers.
2. Cause-Related Marketing: TOMS Shoes
A company engaged in cause-related marketing links monetary or in-kind donations to product sales or other consumer actions.
Such an offer is at the very heart of TOMS Shoes’ business concept: the company promises to give one pair of shoes away to a child in need for every pair of shoes sold.
“The giving component of TOMS makes our shoes more than just a product,” founder Blake Mycoskie explained in his 2011 book Start Something That Matters. “They’re part of a story, a mission, and a movement anyone can join.”
Unlike many cause-related marketing offers that briefly add a charitable component to a brand, TOMS’ buy-one-give-one proposition is written into the company’s DNA. The enterprise’s extraordinary growth is traceable to the tremendous word of mouth, media coverage and promotional opportunities (e.g., being featured in a major AT&T small business ad campaign) generated by the TOMS one for one concept.
To date, TOMS has given away in excess of a million pairs of shoes to children around the world with the help of nonprofit partners such as WorldVision and Save The Children.
3. Corporate Social Marketing: Energizer, International Association of Fire Chiefs & Thousands of Fire Departments
A company involved in corporate social marketing implements behavior change campaigns to improve health, safety, the environment or community well-being.
A quarter century ago, Energizer management recognized deaths from home fires could be avoided if more consumers regularly changed the batteries in their smoke detectors. Encouraging that lifesaving behavior in cooperation with firefighting organizations formed the core of the company's award-winning Change Your Clock Change Your Battery campaign.
Each fall, Energizer underwrites integrated campaigns to spread that message using everything from traditional public relations and local events to Facebook-based contests for free smoke alarms and other prizes.
“By having parents and families actively pledge to change the batteries in their smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, we are hoping they will share the information with their network of friends and hopefully help other families do this simple and life-saving task,” according to Michelle Atkinson, vice president of marketing for Energizer North America.
The longevity of the campaign is testimony to its commercial and social impact. As a market leader in the consumer battery segment, Energizer gets it share of increased revenue stimulated by consumer demand for replacement batteries for their detecting equipment.
Successful Cause Marketing
Creating successful marketing initiatives that deliver on business and social goals is a multistep, iterative process. Businesses must clearly identify objectives, carefully select appropriate social issues, determine the best types of initiative to achieve its goals, invest time, thought and resources to plan and execute programs, evaluate outcomes and fine tune as appropriate.
It’s worth the effort: for your brand as well as your own professional growth.
Cause vs. Marketing: Good Works! (If Done Right)