Cause Marketing

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The essential idea behind cause marketing is that people are more likely to buy products that they feel good about from companies they love.

Did you know that the ancient Greeks first defined the foundation of cause marketing? Of course, they used different words. In classical rhetoric, ethos is the appeal to the character and authority of the speaker. A person with an outstanding reputation is more persuasive than Joe Blow. The audience trusts their opinion and wants to imitate them.

Cause marketing takes this ancient concept and brings it into the 21st century. All companies want to convince their potential buyers of their corporate excellence and the value of their products. Many people buy products because they love the companies as much as they love the products. Brand loyalty is worth big bucks.

Some companies invest their marketing money in non-profits for to draw a connection between their brand and the non-profit . If the manufacturer links their product with something that is important to their potential customers, they will sell more products and increase their profits.

The charitable organization lends their credibility as a ‘do-gooder’ to the equation in return for a monetary contribution that is based on the success of the campaign. Often, a cause marketing campaign will make an offer in the format, “For every _____ that you buy, AAA company will donate _____ to BBB Worthwhile Charity.”

You see examples at the grocery store all the time. You’re checking out and the person behind the register asks you to donate $5 to save the children. Or every product by General Mills has a little sticker that says, “General Mills will donate 3 meals for every time you buy a product with this sticker on it.”

High Level Target

Cause marketing campaigns tend to stick with secular or non-religious organizations. They do not want themselves to be associated with a particular group of religious believers. A few companies like Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby wear their religious affiliation on their sleeves, but they are relatively rare.

Cause marketing also tends to be restricted to larger ministries with regional, state, or national presence. This is because cause marketing is first about marketing, and only secondarily about the cause. Companies have limited marketing dollars. It makes sense for them to partner themselves with organizations that cover a large territory.

An exception to this rule of thumb is smaller, locally owned businesses. Their owners often have a direct relationship with the ministries in their area.

Forms of Cause Marketing

Cash Register Campaigns

Perhaps the simplest form of the cause marketing campaign is the cash register campaign. The cashiers will ask customers if they would like to give a donation to a particular non-profit agency. This works particularly well because it establishes a direct connection between the business and the cause with every customer. It does require a business with a lot of foot traffic.

It also enables them to make a significant gift without a large out of pocket expense. The biggest concern with doing a cash register campaign is getting the cashiers on board. If they don’t make the ask with every customer, the size of the donation will drop dramatically. So make sure that the business has good signage, has the appropriate cash register codes to track the donations, and that they have done everything they can to get the cashiers on board. While this kind of campaign obviously brings in vastly more donations if it is done by a national partner like Walmart, local organizations can form this kind of partnership with local businesses.

Branded merchandise

A company might create specially branded merchandize associated with their favorite non-profit. A huge example of this is the (red) campaign to fight AIDS/HIV. This organization has partnered with a huge number of manufacturers to create (red) branded products that provide donations to the cause when purchased. That might be an intimidating example, a more local version might be a cookie or sandwich at your local deli that is named after your organization and benefits your work. In retail, you will sometimes see products on the shelves that will give a donation to a particular cause.

Social Media Campaigns

Social media cause marketing campaigns can take a number of different forms. Remember, the point of these campaigns is to do good AND be good for business. So a social media campaign might be something like taking a picture of yourself volunteering while drinking your favorite soft drink. For a while, voting campaigns were a favorite with businesses, but those fell out of favor because people got annoyed with them. Social media campaigns can use hashtags # to track and build a movement around a particular cause.

Event Sponsorship

Event sponsorship often falls into the category of cause marketing. The lead sponsors of a marathon, walkathon, danceathon, or whateverathon, are doing so to get their name connected with the organization that is hosting the event.

Media Specials

One type of cause marketing that is relatively short in duration is a media special. This takes two main forms, the radio remote and the television remote. These are usually a one day event that is tied with a particular marketing push. A radio station might show up at a location and do a remote broadcast from the site of your walkathon or big food drive. The big challenge with this kind of marketing is that it needs to be news worthy. There needs to be some kind of hook that gets the media interested in what you’re doing.

Be Creative

Cause marketing is challenging because it’s trying to serve two masters – the business and the non-profit. That doesn’t mean that it won’t work or won’t bring a significant return. You just need to get creative with your ideas and potential partnerships. You can also combine cause marketing with other kinds of corporate giving.

When talking to potential cause marketing partners, the key selling point is the number of impressions (how many people will see the media created by the cause marketing campaign), the audience (who will be the looking at the media you create), and return on investment (how much value will they get for their marketing dollars. Keep these in mind when talking to potential partners and you’ll be in good shape.