There’s a reason “marketing” is part of cause marketing

sue_tobias_circle2By Sue Tobias, Principal, Leeatt Rothschild, Sr. Engagement Manager Mission Measurement.

Editor’s Note: Sue will be speaking at the inaugural Companies & Causes Canada event in Toronto this October 28th.

Based on our experience working with leading Corporations, Foundations and Nonprofits we have found that cause-marketing issues and partnerships are too frequently selected for the wrong reasons – such as a CEO’s pet project or heavy lobbying from potential partners or recipients.  All too often, little consideration is given to aligning with consumer demand and company fit.  As a result, these programs are not optimized and the organizations fail to drive the business and/or social outcomes they set out to achieve. Addressing the following questions before launching a cause marketing campaign will improve business outcomes:

  1. Is there a strong brand & business fit?
  2. Does the issue/organization resonate with our target audience?
  3. Do the program mechanics engage consumers in a meaningful way?
  4. Is the intended level of involvement commensurate with the scale of the company and/or customers’ expectations?
  5. Will this program/partnership cut through the clutter?

The following cases illustrate examples of organizations that have adeptly applied marketing principles to their cause-marketing campaigns, by correctly executing against the key questions listed above.

  1.  Is there a strong brand & business fit?

banbossySheryl Sandberg’s organization, Lean In.org, launched the Ban Bossy campaign to develop and encourage girls to take on leadership roles.  The premise of ‘Ban Bossy’– the need to promote leadership among girls – is central to Lean In’s mission to encourage and empower women to pursue their ambitions.  Given their aligned interests, Lean In has partnered with The Girl Scouts of the USA to promote ‘Ban Bossy’- this exemplifies how a well-aligned partnership (and in this case issue) can further enable an organization to achieve its goals.

  1.  Does the issue/ partnership at hand resonate with our target audience?

P&G’s Secret launched a campaign to combat girl-to-girl bullying through ‘Mean Stinks’, an interactive campaign that provides tips, educational material and forums to put an end to girl-to-girl bullying.  The campaign focused on an issue that is deeply relevant to one of their priority targets, teenage girls, and is an issue that hadn’t been addressed head-on before.  In addition, $1 is donated from every purchase of a specific Secret product to Girls on The Run, a ‘Girl Power’ running program for young girls, further highlighting how the brand has connected with their target customer, through a meaningful social issue.  The success of this campaign is evident- since launch Secret has experienced 20% volume growth and share has increased by 8%. 

  1.  Do the program mechanics engage with consumers in a meaningful way?

free-the-children-bannerThe Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) partnered with the Canadian nonprofit Free The Children in a penny drive to provide people around the world with access to clean water.  Their ‘We Create Change’ campaign encouraged hundreds of thousands of youth and their schools to collect bags full of Canadian pennies, which had just been taken out of circulation.  These bags were then brought in on special red wagons to RBC branches across the country to be processed.  The branded bags, collective participation and dynamic collection process made this campaign a huge hit with teens, educators and their schools, which drove significant social impact and brought lots of new potential customers into RBC branches.

  1.  Is the intended level of involvement commensurate with the scale of the company and/or customers’ expectations?   

bell_lavieBell launched the ‘Bell, Let’s Talk’ campaign to break the silence around mental illness and to support mental health initiatives across Canada.  Given the extent to which mental health affects Canadians (Bell cites 1 out of 5 Canadians will experience mental health issues in their lifetime) and the overall stigma of mental illness, Bell has committed $62 MM across a multi-year, multi-faceted program dedicated to the field.  The scale of Bell’s efforts not only match the scale of the issue, but also the extensive impact that it will have on Canadian society.

  1.  Will the program/ partnership cut through the clutter?

Amidst the bombardment of Black Friday marketing campaigns in 2013, the outdoor gear and apparel company, Patagonia sent out a bold and unique message to consumers.  Their ‘Don’t Buy This Jacket’ greenmarketing campaign encouraged customers not to buy new clothes unless they truly needed them.  They created films and advertisements that featured folks who wore Patagonia gear down to their last thread to tell customers not to buy new goods unless they really needed to.  And the result?  Patagonia’s annual sales in the following two years grew by almost 40 percent.  In a less than intuitive way, Don’t Buy This Jacket cut through the clutter and achieved business success. In order to achieve the desired consumer benefits, you need to test and evaluate your program and partnership ideas just like you would other marketing activities.  Regardless of what department is spearheading your company’s cause marketing program you should approach it as you would any other consumer-oriented marketing activity.  Doing so will help you maximize business outcomes, as well as social impact.

Join Sue Tobias at the Toronto Board of Trade October 28th for the inaugural Companies & Causes Canada conference where she’ll be speaking.

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