In this post we are going to discuss the basics of cause marketing: what it is, how it helps, who can do it, some examples of strong campaigns, and what businesses small and large can do to find success with cause marketing.
What is Cause Marketing?
Cause marketing is any activity or event wherein a for-profit company and non-profit company join forces to promote a charity or cause for the mutual benefit of all parties. Cause marketing also refers to marketing efforts on behalf of non-profit companies. It is important to note that cause marketing is distinguished from philanthropy, which involves a donation.
There are many different kinds of cause marketing campaigns, including transactional campaigns, point of sale campaigns, and messaged-focused campaigns.
Transactional campaign: The company pledges to donate based on a consumer action, such as making a purchase or making a social post. Consider Bell’s Let’s Talk Initiative for Mental Health. The company pledges to donate 5 cents for every call and text, tweet, or Facebook message using the branded hashtag. The 2016 Bell Let’s Talk Day resulted in a donation of more than $6.2 million to mental health initiatives across Canada. Since the initiative started in 2010, Bell has donated more than $79.9 million to mental health programs.
Point of purchase campaign: A company solicits a donation by the consumer at the point of sale. This is often called “checkout charity,” like when a cashier asks the customer if they would like to donate $1 to the local children’s hospital.
Message-focused campaign: As the name implies these campaigns are about spreading a message or raising awareness for an issue. Message-focused campaigns may raise awareness (of a cause, issue, disease etc.), encourage a change in behaviour (anti-drunk driving campaigns), or impel a consumer to action (to recycle, for example).
What are the Benefits of Cause Marketing?
Cause marketing has many potential benefits. The aims of a given campaign are determined solely by the company in question, and the strategy of the campaign will differ based on what the company hopes to achieve. Here are examples of benefits companies typically hope to achieve with cause marketing:
- Raise awareness (Parkinson’s Disease)
- Raise funds (Syrian Refugee Crisis)
- Change perceptions (Dove’s Real Beauty campaign)
- Help the disadvantaged (Jumpstart)
- Help the planet (Dawn, cleaning birds)
The Path to Cause Marketing Success
Chris Baylis of the Sponsorship Collective offers the following advice to succeed with your cause marketing initiative:
- It all begins with your prospect. Don’t develop a campaign first and then shop it around. Go to your prospect and talk to them. What do they value? Who do they want to reach? How can we work together to make it happen? This is the #1 key, so come back to it each and every time.
- You need to understand your value. What are you comfortable selling your brand for? What feels right to you? Trust your gut on this one. Don’t be suckered in by glitzy promises or entranced by multi-million dollar campaigns you read about in the media. That’s about them – this is about your organization and its value.
- Make sure you get paid, so set minimums and maximums. Your brand has intrinsic value, so protect it with a minimum payment. On the other hand, expect your prospect to ask for a maximum. All sides will be happy if it’s reached.
- No is a complete sentence. Be willing to walk away if anything doesn’t feel right. Asked to do too much? Walk away. Asked to sell yourself? Walk away. Conflicts with your ethics? Walk away. At the same time…
- You’ve got to work. For a campaign to be successful, you’ve got to put your database to work. You’ve got to show the company that you did everything you could to make this work.
- Measure and report. You’re going to do everything you promise, but how can you prove it? Keep track of everything. Prepare a report and demonstrate how you followed through in every regard.
Cause Marketing – No Matter Your Market Share
Traditionally, and in most of the examples above, the relationships are between big multinational enterprises and “name brand” causes. Though the big names have more exposure, for-profit and non-profit entities of any size can find success with cause marketing. In fact, leveraging a regional presence and connection to the community is often a path to success. For example, donating to the local children’s hospital will likely connect with consumers better than a campaign connected to a national cause because it strikes close to home – perhaps they spent time there as a child, or know a neighbourhood child in the care of the hospital right now. Find value in the small fish!
Cause marketing is a viable strategy for all organizations, and it’s a fun way to engage the community and get people talking. What’s your cause, and how are you going to get the word out?