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A case for cause marketing

October 1st, 2008 | by Klaus Holzapfel |

Cause marketing is being defined as a cooperative effort of a “for profit” business and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit. Sometimes it is also defined on a broader base as marketing effort for social and other charitable causes.

Why would a commercial marketer engage in this?
Under a cause marketing scenario part of the proceeds of a sale of product or service will be donated to a good cause. The resulting PR might very well lead to an increase in sales that will offset the cost of the donations.

Think about all the ways a meaningful cause marketing story can be spun:
It can be embedded in your website – yes it is ok to brag about doing good – it will encourage others to do the same!

Your consumers will potentially identify with your cause. They’ll talk about it and in many cases will encourage their friends to buy your product instead of your competitor’s. This can result in free word of mouth marketing for you – online and offline.

A recent study showed that 89% of Americans (aged 13 – 25) will switch to a comparable brand if the latter brand is associated with a good cause.

It is VERY important to be authentic and stay true to the facts here. If you even appear to be deceiving to consumers your efforts can backfire.

Be clear about how much money is being raised and what exactly is happening with it. Therefore it is important to partner with professional organizations that have accountability and performance measurement already built in. Ideally they supply you with the data, the story, images and videos that you can use for your purposes to demonstrate the effects your contributions are having.

This will result in more people talking about it.

You get it: This means more word of mouth marketing for you. You can therefore gradually increase your charity giving for as long as your sales increase due to the success of your marketing efforts.

Think of cause marketing as a very powerful tool to position your brand and separate yourself from your competitors.

Be ready to talk
You will be approached by consumers who want to tell you how great it is what you are doing, people will ask you how they can help. Be open for discussion.

Maybe you organize a camp with some key supporters that want to get more involved?

Do not ignore these voices. They will talk to their network and you communicating with them can be priceless. Did I mention word of mouth before?

Will any cause work for your brand?
Most certainly not. If your target group is 18-24 years old and you are supporting the fight against a diseases for people over 80 years in age you are doomed. Your target group needs to feel strongly about the cause you are picking. 18-24 years olds will much rather relate to issues like drink and drive, smoking, drugs, rape, gang related violence or something else they are passionate about.

Will sticking a label on my products do the trick?
Our consumers are highly over-saturated. Think of cause marketing as an excellent tool to get through the clutter. This needs to happen in more sophisticated ways than just sticking a label on your product. Think about videos that explain what you are up to.

Maybe add a message from your founder or CEO? You want to engage in social media and join the online conversation about “your” cause and demonstrate that you are serious. Reach out to the people that are passionate about your cause and get them involved.

At the end you still want to stick that label on your product but it won’t serve you well as a standalone measure.

How about getting celebrities involved?
Support of celebrities is great but they are just one element in the puzzle. Remember the basics have to be right: Your target group must buy into your cause marketing efforts and you need to become part of the conversation. Without that you can enlist all the celebrities of the world and will still only have limited success.

Also keep in mind that a celebrity should have a connection to your cause. An actor suffering from a disease and promoting research (i.e. Michael J. Fox and his foundation funding Parkinson research) will have a much deeper effect than tying David Beckham into a campaign for refugees from Georgia.

In a recent survey only 15% of Americans stated that celebrity involvement will influence their decision to become involved.

The challenge
We are non-traditional marketers with a focus in guerilla and viral marketing. As such we understand that every successful campaign must have some new elements. Something that hasn’t been done like this. New associations must be created.

This also applies to how we target cause marketing: It has to be new and refreshing to engage the audience and get them involved. It is not possible to simply copy what someone else is doing and just relabel it. People need to be provided with discussion material – ideally a real promising story.

This means you can be shocking, surprising, unusual or simply out-of the box – with a sincere underlying story. But we consider these “viral” elements a major factor in the success of a cause marketing campaign.

How does it tie into social media and web 2.0?
Social media requires marketers to rethink how their communication with their consumers worked. A top to bottom conversation has essentially shifted into a bottom to top conversation. Therefore it is very important to monitor and engage in the conversation. People will talk about your campaign and you need to engage with them.

It provides you with a real time opportunity to gather feedback and learn how your target group perceives what you are doing. No need to wait for the next sales report. Your most relevant data source are the social networks where your consumers are gathering.

Success stories – Who is doing it?
Paul Newman started Newmans Own. His “whole in the wall camps” for terminally ill kids were the main beneficiary. Over 200 million USD have been raised so far. Let’s hope Paul’s spirit lives on.

Red – Initiated by Bono to fight aids in Africa – over 60 million contributed so far

Google – Project 10^100 – still in the works…
Is there a formula of how much to give?
No absolutely not. Any cause marketing has to make economic sense to you first. We have seen as little as 0.5% of proceeds being allocated to a cause and then you had Paul Newman allocating 100% (!!!) of his net proceeds to good cause. We look at cause marketing as a way to generate additional revenue for you. So you have to do your math and decide what makes sense for you. Keep in mind that your credibility increases with the % of total revenue you submit to your cause. But in some cases low percentages can add up to huge total number and that would be the number you want to communicate to the public.

Where does the World Cup 2010 come in?
We believe that the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa will be a break through event for cause marketing. The experience of the 2006 World Cup and 2008 Summer Olympics have shown the increased difficulty for the main sponsors and other marketers to use the event for their benefits in traditional ways. A lot of resources were spend in return for no or very limited results. South Africa is a country with massive problems that have to be addressed: # rape, HIV infections, # of orphans are shockingly high.

This is a perfect playground for anyone interested in Cause Marketing: Established organizations exist and are doing great work already. But they lack the resources to work on a larger scale and make a more significant impact. The founders of conceptbakery believe that this trend will be massive and important and therefore we decided to launch a nonprofit corporation with the sole focus on the South Africa Project.

Why not just make a straight donation?
Donations to a charity are great. But caus marketing makes much more sense in our eyes since you have a real chance to make a much bigger difference: You get your visitors / target group involved as well.

You end up supporting a good cause on a much larger scale. A 500k donation to charity will just be a great one time item. But raising 500k through a cause marketing program can lead to a much bigger upside for the charity you support (and for you as well).

Of course, you can still write that big check as well;-)

Does it really work?
We could digg out some data for you. But I suggest you simply let the concepts and ideas outlined above sit with you for a moment. Isn’t this a no-brainer in todays world that a well structured cause marketing campaign should be much more engaging (and therefore yield better results) than any for cause marketing project?

Remember:
You still get your message across – just with a slightly more positive touch.

  1. 6 Responses to “A case for cause marketing”

  2. By Alan Underkofler - Follow Up Success on Oct 8, 2008 | Reply

    Klaus, Really like how you pulled in all the elements as it relates to cause marketing in your post. This is a great way to not only give back to your community or a cause you believe in but it’s also a fantastic way to connect with your customers on a very personal level! Great post!

    Alan Underkofler – Follow Up Success´s last blog post..Are You A Multitasking Follow Up Extremist?

  3. By ihsan on Oct 23, 2008 | Reply

    Hi

    Very good Thread

  4. By zugabe on Mar 22, 2009 | Reply

    Hi
    Very helpeful Blog.

    Good work!

  5. By mehmet on May 13, 2009 | Reply

    Nice article ;)

  6. By gregor on May 19, 2009 | Reply

    Hey nice Thread. Good job

  7. By Achim on May 31, 2009 | Reply

    It's a realy interestet Artikel.

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