Integrated Marketing Strategy meets Social Responsibility: Making the Cause for Cause Marketing
In the good old days, a marketing plan or marketing strategy for social responsibility at work often amounted to sponsoring the local Little League team, or supporting occasional holiday or seasonal donation drive – you know, bring a non-perishable food item to work, give a new unwrapped toy, or wear jeans and sneakers for a buck. The good old days. But those days are over. Today, it’s time to say hello to the great new days of social responsibility at work – a powerful, influential strategic force known as Cause Marketing. Read on to learn more!
What is Cause Marketing?
Before we discuss the integrated marketing nature of Cause Marketing, let’s start with what it isn’t. Contrary to what some of the more cynical among us may perceive, Cause Marketing isn’t some superficial, thinly-veiled attempt by heartless companies to try and fool customers into thinking they care. That tactic goes by another name that’s not suitable for a family-friendly article such as this.
Rather, as a bonafide integrated marketing solution, Cause Marketing is a clear demonstration of a company’s commitment to an important cause, or in some cases, multiple causes. A cause can be social, economic, cultural, ecological, or even political (more on this in a moment).
By “clear demonstration”, I mean that you can’t bury this Cause Marketing commitment somewhere in your About Us page. It has to be to the point and have its own spotlight.
That doesn’t mean you need to have it blasted on your home page. But you should at least have a distinct Social Responsibility page (or call it Our Community Commitment or whatever you wish), so that then potential customers go there, they clearly see that:
- Your business is committed to specific causes and initiatives
- Your business is proud of this fact and wants everyone to know
- When people do business with your company, they’re also making a difference
Now, all of this may sound reasonable. In fact, it may sound great and hopefully it does. But it doesn’t answer a question that most business people need to ask, as awkward and uncomfortable as it may be: is this good business? Yes. Yes it is. But don’t take my word for it – let’s hear it straight from the experts.
Why Cause Marketing Matters
In its 17-year benchmark of Cause Marketing, the 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study confirmed that Cause Marketing positively influences attitudes and behaviour of US consumers. Specifically, the study noted that:
- 41% of consumers did business with a company because it was associated with a social or environmental cause
- 88% of consumers think it’s perfectly acceptable and desirable for companies to engage in cause marketing
- 85% of consumers have a better image of a company and its products/services when that company supports a worthy cause
Clearly, Cause Marketing influences attitude – that’s the first part. But what about behavior? Behold:
- 80% of consumers are willing to switch brands or companies due to cause marketing
- 61% of consumers are willing to try an entirely new brand or company, at the same price, due to cause marketing
- 19% of consumers will switch to a more expensive brand because of Cause Marketing
So we’ve got attitude (check) and behaviour (check). Still though, that’s not enough to hit the marketing jackpot. For that, we have to identify the S-word: saturation. Again, the Cone study rides to the rescue with this:
- 83% of consumers want companies to do more Cause Marketing, because they want to make a positive difference when they make a purchase
(ding-ding-ding-ding-ding – we have a winner!)
So in a nutshell – or perhaps in a slot machine – it’s clear that Cause Marketing is not merely a good business idea; it’s the jackpot. It’s a legitimate and necessary marketing strategy; one that needs to be part of any comprehensive (and credible) marketing plan, digital or otherwise. All of this changes the question from why you should care about Cause Marketing, to how can you afford not to?
6 Ways to Make Cause Marketing Work (at Work)
Dreaming of a marketing plan that achieves social responsibility is one thing; actually achieving it is a different story. But don’t worry if you don’t know where to start, or if your Cause Marketing Plan is alarmingly blank. Help is on the way.
Below are the 6 strategic steps (with some notes from Kim T. Gordon over at Entrepreneur.com), which will turn your good intentions into an efficient, effective and influential Cause Marketing success.
Cause Marketing Step 1: Believe in what you’re doing.
Yes, you can file this under “blatantly obvious” if you wish, but once you roll up your sleeves and really get down to it, you’ll likely find that different people in your organization believe in different things; and those beliefs influence their commitment, attitude, and energy levels. So while it’s impractical to find the ideal cause that everyone is totally invested in, it’s certainly possible to identify a cause, or causes, that resonate on a meaningful level with your entire staff. When people believe in something, they not only enjoy it more (even when it’s difficult and challenging), but they achieve better results.
Cause Marketing Step 2: Align a cause with your organization.
Trying to pick a cause can be an overwhelming task; there are countless worthy initiatives out there, and choosing just one or two can be daunting and even prevent you from choosing one. To help you select the right cause to get behind, start by looking at your organization and its industry/sector. Chances are, there’s s a natural fit between what you’re doing and a worthy cause. For example, if you’re a dentist who specializes in cosmetic dentistry, you may choose to raise awareness or funds on behalf of a hospital that treats the oral health needs of accident victims, or perhaps a Shelter for Women, or Doctors without Borders. Strategically aligning yourself with a cause not only helps it make more sense to your employees, but it also helps your patients, clients and customers grasp why you’ve chosen that particular cause.
Cause Marketing Step 3: Think outside the wallet.
Raising or donating funds is great, and you won’t find a cause out there who’ll refuse an honest monetary contribution. But there are times when some good old fashioned sweat is more meaningful than dollars, and indeed, more valuable in the long run. So when it comes to making your Cause Marketing commitments, explore ways that you can give your time, knowledge, or some other non-financial contribution. Of course, you may still fundraise or donate cash – the strategy here is simply not to limit yourself to doing that. As a bonus, you can achieve some fantastic team building by encouraging your staff to donate their time as a group vs. donating dollars as individuals.
Cause Marketing Step 4: Cross promote.
The group(s) that you associate with have their own marketing channels and tactics, and you certainly want to be part of that. You want to discuss how to present your partner in your marketing collateral (e.g. your website, newsletter, blog posts, and so on). Furthermore, it may be beneficial to create joint marketing campaigns that help further the cause, but as a by-product, spread awareness of both organizations.
Cause Marketing Step 5: Formalize the campaign.
It’s easy to view Cause Marketing as something that’s nice to have but that really doesn’t exist within the formal world of big-M Marketing and that’s a massive strategic mistake that can easily undermine any Cause Marketing effort. You want to formalize your campaign and treat it with the same professional attention that you do any other. So in other words, you want to have a formal and strategic marketing plan, milestones, resource lists, project management elements, and anything else that belongs.
Cause Marketing Step 6: Get the expert help you need.
Designing, implementing and managing your Cause Marketing campaign is a skill that can’t be assumed. There are do’s and don’t, some – but not all – of which have been identified here (because there are too many).
The simplest and best advice you can follow is to partner with CastleCS. With the CastleCS team strategically guiding you through the Cause Marketing world and ensuring you safely and smartly succeed, you’ll soon discover that your noble efforts take on a momentum of its own; a virtuous cycle that propels you and your staff to engage in more and better Cause Marketing, which leads to more and better results, which leads to (wait for it) more and better Cause Marketing. Now that’s a business cycle you can look forward to, and the CastleCS team can make happen!
Contact us today to book a free consultation, and get ready to reap the rewards of great Cause Marketing in a way that benefits everyone: the people you help, the staff you inspire, and your bottom line.