The idea of cause-marketing is not a new one. Since the 1970s, companies have been engaging in social marketing, giving, or fundraising efforts for social, charitable, and philanthropic organizations.
Most experts agree the term was coined by American Express in 1983. During its campaign to restore the Statue of Liberty, American Express donated one penny to the efforts with every use of its charge card. The results were incredible – new cardholders grew by 45% and card usage increased by 28%.
However, in the last 6 years, more brands than ever before are getting on the cause marketing bandwagon, and it has now taken prominence over more traditional philanthropic activities. A report by onPhilanthropy estimated that cause marketing sponsorship in America tallied almost $6 billion.
What is Cause Marketing, exactly?
While the term cause-marketing is often used interchangeably with charitable giving or fundraising efforts, they are, in fact, very different.
Cause Marketing is a potentially-profit-making, mutually beneficial collaboration between a brand and a not-for-profit organization. Simply put, align yourself with a good-cause and publicize the heck out of it. Where corporate giving usually involves a specific donation, Cause Marketing is a marketing relationship that’s not necessarily tied to a donation.
Cause marketing can take on a number of forms:
- Product, service, or transaction specific
- Promotion of a common message
- Product licensing, endorsements, and certifications
- Local partnerships
- Employee service programs
So, Why Cause Marketing?
The simplest answer is “Why not”?
As consumers become more educated and socially engaged, the market more cluttered and issues more complex, brands need to differentiate themselves. In essence, what you don’t do can cost you. Socially aware consumers want to know that you share in their desire to make the world a better place.
According to the Carol Cone, the “mother” of cause marketing, “Brands have always wanted to be part of consumers’ lives, and there’s an opening for that now more than ever. The Edelman 2010 goodpurpose study showed that 86 percent of consumers globally believe that companies need to place at least equal weight on society’s interests as they do on business’ interests.”
As the website Dowelldogood.com so eloquently writes, “…cause marketing presents a unique opportunity for companies to simultaneously do well and do good, or better yet, to do well by doing good.”
So, really – why not?
Where should you start?
Cause marketing isn’t always easy – issues are plentiful and complex. Kim Gordon with entrepreneur.com has 5 rules to creating a Cause Marketing Campaign. Check them out here.
Perhaps the most important is to “Give from the Heart” and “Choose a Related Cause”. Pick a cause your brand, your consumers and your employees support and feel good about, but also that aligns to your brand’s identity. If you don’t believe in it, it just won’t work.
Here are some examples of great Cause Marketing campaigns (and some of my personal favourites):
The Global Fund & Product Red – Project Red was initially created to support The Global Fund (designed to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria). Not only is this a great campaign supported by brands like The Gap & Apple, Project Red has actually became a brand on its own.
Pepsi’s A Liter of Light – A brilliant eco-friendly campaign that brings light to poor communities by re-using Pepsi bottles.
Chipotle Back to the Start – Using Willie Nelson, ColdPlay and stop-animation, Chipotle released this video to highlight the importance of sustainable farming.
Finally, check out 2011’s top 10 trends in Cause Marketing, as compiled by Cone Communications.