Brand image is everything in today’s highly competitive business environment and 24/7 information cycle. Regardless of your industry, you need a brand strategy to stand out among the noise and capture customers’ attention.
In 2020, beauty company The Body Shop made a decision to start a campaign to thank healthcare workers for their commitment during the Covid-19 pandemic. The initiative called ”Time To Care” included partnering with shelters and assisted living communities to donate cleansing supplies, like body and hand soap to those critical workers. This is a great example of cause-related marketing.
SO WHAT IS CAUSE MARKETING?
Defined by Wikipedia, “cause marketing is marketing done by a for-profit business that seeks to both increase profits and to better society in accordance with corporate social responsibility, such as by including activist messages in advertising.”
Cause marketing is a great way for any company to enhance the perception of the brand. Back in the 80’s, when I was working for a personal injury law firm, it was one of my biggest challenges and successes to elevate the company’s image from “ambulance chasers” to “lawyers who care.” This involved a two part strategy including running testimonial ads and introducing the law firm’s “Safe Ride Home” campaign offering free cab rides between Christmas and New Year’s Eve to prevent drinking and driving.
Additionally to improving a brand’s image and customer loyalty, cause-related marketing is an excellent opportunity for free publicity. Remember the old adage: “Pay for advertising and pray for publicity.” Depending on your market size, free publicity can translate into thousands and even hundreds of thousands of free mentions by the media and the internet.
The history of cause marketing, like most things that we do not personally see can be debated. What we do know, is that historians say it began in the 1970’s when Bruce Burtch organized fundraisers between the Marriott Corporation and the March of Dimes. However, I believe it dates back to the 60’s with the first Jerry Lewis Telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. During the telethon corporate executives stood on stage with gigantic checks pledging large sums of money to “Jerry’s Kids.”
Regardless of who, when, or where it began, cause marketing is here to stay. Some of the more recent examples include:
The Ad Council’s transmedia campaign asking internet users to use the hashtag #LoveHasNoLabels to tag their photos. The video went viral and accumulated over 40 million views. Thousands of social network users also add a graphic overlay to their personal photos to show support for equality.
One that also quickly comes to mind is “Small Business Saturday” launched by American Express back in 2010 to support small, local businesses. IN 2012, approximately 73 million people went out to shop at small businesses, and over 1,0000 neighborhoods signed up to support the day in 2013.
Another highly visible cause-marketing campaign was launched in 2012 by the New York’s 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation to promote over 30,000 nonprofit organizations around the world. Held annually after Cyber Monday and Black Friday, #GivingTuesday continues to raise funds for charitable organizations around the world.
What do these three campaigns have in common? Longevity. If you are going to create a cause-related marketing campaign, it is important to pick a cause that you are passionate about and one that makes sense for your brand. If there is no connection between your cause and brand, consumers may be confused and worse, they may see it as your company exploiting a cause of free publicity. Thus doing just the opposite of a successful cause marketing campaign.
If you have questions or what to brainstorm about developing a cause marketing campaign for your brand, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Instagram and facebook.