Are you starting to see pink everywhere — even in places you would never expect?
Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, I’m sure you’ve seen
pink ribbons on food items, apparel, sports equipment and even on NFL uniforms.
Why do so many products have pink ribbons on them, and claim to donate a part of their proceeds to breast cancer research?
These companies are all using an approach called cause marketing, where they establish a mutually beneficial partnership with a charitable organization to tout the charity’s “cause” and their affiliation with a worthy organization.
It’s all part of their strategic marketing plan to attract new customers and retain existing ones. And it works…when it’s done well.
A great example is TOMS Shoes. For every pair of shoes bought, TOMS donates a new pair to a child in need. Philanthropy is at the heart of their entire business model — it’s woven into the fabric of every pair of shoes. They even win awards for their cause marketing.
Why Cause Marketing is Good Marketing
It’s a common approach used by big name brands. But you don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to reap the benefits of incorporating cause marketing into your overall strategic marketing plan.
Small businesses have been doing it for decades by sponsoring Little League teams, local parks, highway cleanups and Kiwanis Clubs.
Cause marketing is a great way for businesses to achieve strategic communications goals, because it:
- Offers another way to reach potential customers who are part of your target audience;
- Endears your company to current customers, keeping them loyal to your brand;
- Gives your company a heart and soul; and
- Gives the impression that your company isn’t just about profits.
Is Cause Marketing a Good Fit for Your Brand?
You can determine if cause marketing should be a component of your strategic marketing plan by asking a few questions.
- Is there a charitable cause that shares a similar target audience with your business?
- Are there ways that you can partner with a non-profit to benefit both organizations?
- Are you willing to collaborate with the organization, instead of just donating money?
- Do the goals of that organization align with the goals of your customers and employees?
- Do you feel passionate about the cause, does it align with your values or can you personally support it?
How To Do Cause Marketing the Right Way
If you’ve answered, “yes” to the questions above, cause marketing might be a good step for your company.
But, before you dive in head first, consider these general guidelines to set up your cause-related marketing program up for success.
1. Be brand focused.
Pick something that relates to your brand, and the goals of your company. For example, Dawn partners with International Bird Rescue because bird rescues use Dawn dish detergent to wash oil and grease off of birds after oil spills. It’s a perfect arrangement, because the wildlife rescue uses Dawn, and the rescue can raise awareness for its cause through this brand behemoth.
2. Consider your audience.
Pick something that speaks to your target audience. You want to attach yourself to an organization or cause that will be important for your customers and prospects, but still “on brand.”
3. Consider public perception.
Last year, a Wal-Mart store in Ohio openly held a food drive for employees who were in need. Wal-Mart attracted much criticism because holding a food drive for your own employees indicates that the employees are not paid enough to take care of themselves. Be sure you think through all the ways your cause marketing campaign could be construed.
4. Avoid controversy.
Don’t attach yourself to something too controversial, unless you’re prepared for a potential backlash. For instance, avoid hot-button issues, like reproductive rights, stem cell research, political parties, nuclear power or anything that might be considered too radical — unless you are willing to confront those issues.
5. Try to pick an existing organization, instead of starting your own foundation.
This is especially important when you’re just starting out. That way, you can collaborate with another organization with its own audience.
6. Get involved.
Really dig into the cause.
Don’t just write a check. Get involved and stay involved long-term.
7. Do your research.
Make sure you know the ins and outs of the organization you are about to collaborate with — you don’t want their bad PR to become your bad PR.
8. Be transparent.
Be open and transparent about what you actually do for the cause — how much money you donate or how else you support it. You will be fact-checked by outside organizations.
9. Promote your involvement.
Don’t be shy about publicizing the partnership, and your involvement in the cause. Take photos, issues news releases, release the results of your campaign and offer specific examples of your good work.
Just like with any other marketing initiative, make sure you do your research and choose a strategic partnership that will benefit both organizations long-term.
Are you ready to add cause marketing to your strategic marketing mix?