Sponsorship is one of the oldest forms of advertising, and the basic principle – associating your brand’s name positively with something your target market enjoys –still holds water today. However, in today’s changed information marketplace, in which traditional media share the stage with bloggers, brands, experts and individuals, traditional sponsorships can fall a bit short. Why? Because they give people precious little to talk about. Enter cause marketing.
Cause marketing – in which a brand aligns itself and devotes resource to addressing a specific problem or supporting a charitable effort – offers brands advantages not found in other types of sponsorship or advertising, and it works particularly well in today’s world of social networks and online tribes. Here are a few reasons why:
Tribal affinity, otherwise known as market segmentation: Any marketer will tell you that segmenting your market is a good idea. Expending the brand’s resources without taking the time to target groups of people likely to have an interest in the message can be an exercise in futility – and it’s wasteful. However, the brand that aligns itself with a cause that is relevant to its best customers and prospects can create real efficiency when it comes to reaching that constituency.
That said, there are some caveats for brands when it comes to selecting a cause.
“The issues Millennials care about most varies from country to country and its tempting to let that drive what cause you support,” notes Simon Mainwaring, a leading social branding strategist and author of the book We First: How Brands & Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World in his discussion of how corporate purpose can turn Millennials into brand ambassadors. “But a brand must ensure its own purpose, values and mission dictate what cause it supports to avoid accusations of greenwashing or causewashing. That way, a brand’s cause work drives Millennial engagement and reinforces the authentic for-profit narrative of the brand.”
Storytelling, otherwise known as content generation: Cause-related marketing creates a lot more traction than a fleeting brand impression, because it presents the opportunity for the brand and its partner to tell stories. And those stories can be powerful catalysts for conversations in social networks, which in turn delivers real message amplification that is positive — and relevant for the audience. Programs created in association with your brand’s non-profit partner can be rich sources of the sort of attractive and interesting pictures, videos, charts, data, graphics and stories that people enjoy consuming and feel good about sharing with their friends and followers on social media. And each piece of content derived from a brand’s cause-marketing program can
Incentive, otherwise known as the whole point of most marketing efforts: Finally, cause-related marketing provides important extra incentives for buyers to make their selections in your brand’s favor when the simple act of making a purchase in turn helps a cause they care about. Whether the consumer simply likes the idea of sending an extra dollar your cause’s way, or they’re making a conscious decision to only support brands that have sustainable business practices and give back to the community – the effect in the moment of the purchase decision is the same. The scales are tipped for your brand.
Quite a lot of thinking in the CSR/sustainable business/cause-marketing community is coalescing around the idea that these practices are no longer optional for brands – they are necessary pieces of the strategy mix. It’s difficult to disagree, from either the emotional or practical standpoints, for two reasons – people like doing business with organizations they like, and a great way to get people to like your organization is to do some good in the world and tell that story in an interesting way.
A unique opportunity for brands considering cause marketing initiatives is coming this May at the Business4Better Expo in Anaheim CA. There, representatives from the corporate side will find scores of non-profits that are primed for and seeking corporate partners.