By using cause marketing – connecting your brand to a charity or nonprofit group – you can create a positive brand image and increase sales while giving back to your community. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
Cause marketing is about 25 years old. American Express first invented the idea in 1983. For a limited amount of time (several months), whenever a cardholder made a purchase, Amex donated a penny to a fund to restore the Statue of Liberty. As a result, Amex raised a few million dollars to help restore the Lady, plus garnered consumer goodwill, positive media coverage and increased sales.
Cause marketing has boomed ever since and continues to rise. According to a study by IEG, Inc., over $1.1 billion was spent on cause marketing in 2005, and almost $1.4 billion was spent in 2006. Here are some do’s and don’ts in how to run a cause marketing campaign:
Do choose a cause that fits your business. Your goal should be to support your brand with a nonprofit group that falls in line with your business values and practices. If your product doesn’t fit well with the nonprofit’s goals and/or activities, the fit won’t be right and consumers won’t feel good about buying your product. If you’re a mortgage company that is known in the community for foreclosures, then partnering with Habitat for Humanity will have people scratching their heads. Evaluate what you sell and get to know the target market you’re trying to reach and what’s important to them. Align yourself with what your target market values, like homelessness or another cause.
Don’t fake your concern. If you don’t really care about a cause or issue, don’t fake it – people will be able to see right through you. Plus, you won’t be as committed if you don’t really care about the cause. If you have a genuine passion for the cause, you’ll be more likely to stay involved with the nonprofit and help in any way you can. Your passion will show through to your marketing efforts.
Don’t skimp on your own marketing needs for the cause. Remember that you are still running a business and this is still a marketing campaign. The nonprofit is still an organization that you’re helping out, and the situation is a 2-way street. Make sure to get down in writing how many times your logo and company name will be seen in the nonprofit’s marketing and vice versa; what kind of info will be on each Web site to support the other; and what kind of articles will be written and where they will be placed. Cause marketing is still a somewhat formal marketing campaign – don’t get too lax just because the nonprofit may not have the same resources you do.
Do measure the campaign’s effectiveness. You don’t need to record everything down to the last penny, but you need to measure results so you know if this is a worthwhile campaign. Request a report from the nonprofit, and offer your own report about sales and marketing efforts. You may even want to assign an employee whose responsibility is to contact the nonprofit group on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
Don’t rely on cause marketing as your sole marketing campaign. You should still be doing other types of marketing independent of the nonprofit. You may want to use cause marketing as a big part of your marketing campaign, but don’t rely on it as your sole marketing strategy. Some people simply don’t care about certain charities, so be sure you touch those people with your other marketing techniques. Don’t try to meld your identity with the nonprofit with business card printing that features both organizations’ logos. That’s a waste of money.
Don’t get too carried away and just use cause marketing as one strategy in your marketing arsenal. 😉