Whether you market CRM software or refrigerators, customers and prospects care about more than just your products and services. They also care about the integrity of your business and that you don't merely focus on profits, but also on benefitting society as a whole. Today's consumers want to know that they can trust and stand behind your business.
Consumers want to know not only what you sell but also who you are. An increasing number of marketers are focusing on ways to demonstrate their business's social responsibility, and one of the most compelling strategies is the well-thought-out use of "cause marketing."
WHAT IS CAUSE MARKETING?
Cause marketing allows a business to promote a social cause to showcase social responsibility (and humanity) to customers. Companies provide customers with additional value by supporting causes important to the consumer and the brand, fostering brand loyalty, and a sense of purpose beyond consumerism:
"Cause marketing, also called cause-related marketing, refers to two related but slightly different forms of marketing. The first involves a collaborative effort between a for-profit brand and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit. The term can also be used in a more general sense to refer to marketing programs by for-profit brands based around a social or charitable cause." - Brandwatch
THE RIGHT MESSAGE AT THE RIGHT TIME
Countless businesses have successfully leveraged cause marketing to boost sales by showing customers that they care about social good. Their success comes from focusing their message in ways that are both compelling and relevant to the social issues consumers care about and that the brands support. Authenticity is of vital importance.
Most recently, public opinion has been focused on issues related to systemic racism in policing and the criminal justice system. According to a recent Monmouth University poll, more than 75% of Americans now call racism "a big problem," reflecting an increase of almost 30 points from 5 years ago, as more people are paying attention to the issue. Forward-leaning marketers from companies from Lego to Disney have taken the opportunity to use their platforms to amplify the message, showcasing their support for the Black community, criminal justice reform, and organizations like Black Lives Matter.
This past week, after results from the Anti-Defamation League's 2019 survey of Americans showed that over 55 percent of Facebook users experienced hate and harassment on Facebook, the #StopHateforProfit campaign began. The initiative calls for global corporations to stand in solidarity against hate-fueled content on the platform by pausing advertising on Facebook during July 2020.
As brands like The North Face, REI, Upwork, and Patagonia pledge participation, in every case, each company must decide how they'll engage in actions and messaging around causes, movements, or social justice conversations from a place of ethical considerations.
In every movement, brands should evaluate ethical and brand perception when deciding how to show up. We recommend considering: does the movement align with the core values of your company? Does your team believe it has a moral role to play or an ethical obligation to participate? Once you have answered these questions, then consider your action and communication plans from a place of authenticity.
BY THE NUMBERS: WHY CAUSE MARKETING MATTERS FOR YOUR BUSINESS
The experience of countless businesses shows cause marketing can help companies to achieve many of their principal marketing objectives, such as increasing brand awareness, customer engagement, and sales, while also following their ethical values. In fact, for many companies that effectively embrace cause marketing, it can be a game-changer for their business.
Consider, for example, these cause marketing metrics from a host of recent marketing studies:
Almost 75% of American consumers say they want to purchase from businesses that share their values
More than 1 of every 3 consumers want to spend more on businesses that are engaged in social good
Almost 65% of consumers say they'd buy from a business—or boycott it—based on its position on key social issues
Almost 90% of consumers say they want and expect the companies from which they buy to "take a stand on social issues"
4 out of 5 consumers say businesses should "play a role" in addressing social issues they care about
CAUSE MARKETING BEST PRACTICES
Businesses, large and small, that launch highly successful cause marketing campaigns take the time to understand what causes their customers care about most. Their success is also in leveraging best practices for their campaigns and in their dedication to remaining authentic to their company values.
Every business is different, with varying customers, goals, and marketing challenges. That said, the companies for which cause marketing works best follow a reasonably similar playbook, one that includes the following 3 strategies:
1. THEY REINFORCE THEIR "BRAND PURPOSE"
Your "brand purpose" is your business's reason for existing, rather than solely for making a profit. For example, IKEA expresses its brand purpose in its vision statement: "to create a better everyday life for the many people."
For your cause marketing campaign to succeed, it's important to clarify what your brand purpose is, and then espouse causes that reinforce that purpose. The causes you support may change some as public opinion shifts, but your brand purpose should remain steadfast. The key is to align causes you back to your brand purpose in compelling, resonant, authentic, and transparent ways.
2. THEY ARE AUTHENTIC
Today's consumers are savvy—they can instantly spot messaging that "doesn't sound right." In other words, messaging that comes across as fake or inauthentic will negatively impact your brand, rather than elevate it. That can be a costly mistake for marketers, especially when a business advocates social causes that their customer base cares about.
When it comes to cause marketing, the end most definitely does not justify the means. If you don't care about the cause you claim to support, your customers will know, and they'll show their disapproval by flocking to competitors or sharing their negative takes with their networks.
3. THEY ENCOURAGE SOCIAL MEDIA PARTICIPATION
When customers care about homelessness, climate change, or social justice, they want to do more than stand on the sidelines. The businesses most successful with cause marketing are those that encourage active participation from their customers.
One of the best ways to do that is by leveraging the power of social media, the natural vehicle to promote meaningful exchanges and conversations. When you ask your customers on social media to help you help others, they feel good about themselves and, by extension, about your business.
A FINAL WORD ON CAUSE MARKETING
Fueled by a powerful idea and expertly executed, a cause marketing campaign can take your business to the next level. By showing that your company cares about more than profit – and meaning it, you can effectively differentiate yourself from your competitors and give customers and prospective customers a compelling reason to buy your products and services.
But, it's important to remember that any marketing concept is only as good as the way it's executed. To succeed with cause marketing and approach it thoughtfully, make sure the cause you support aligns with your brand, is authentic and leverages the power of customer participation through social media. If you'd like to boost your cause marketing strategy or understand how best to tie in your brand with a worthy cause, reach out to the Adlucent team for marketing expertise across your digital channels.