Cause Marketing is not a new idea – it’s been around a long time. Whether buying a Christmas tree from the local Lions Club, light bulbs from Boy Scouts or yummy Girl Scout Cookies, in each case you are purchasing a product that you would normally (or not?) buy – possibly at a premium price – in support of the organization the product represents. These and other ‘older’ connections between commerce and cause are an accepted part of the consumer landscape. I’m pretty sure there is a reason so many of them are connected to food and yummy treats because that is a proven method for getting people to spend some cash. And to give kudos where due, the Girl Scouts have linked into something smart – don’t want to buy a bunch of cookies and end up eating way too many? Purchase them for donation to our military men and women. A double bang for your buck – supporting Girl Scouts and our military with a $4 box of cookies and saving your waistline!
So how then is cause marketing changing in the era of increased Corporate Social Responsibility, commonly referred to as CSR? It has long been considered a businesses’ primary responsibility is to maximize profits for its stockholders and investors. Is it possible, much less feasible to do that while also engaging in CSR? It is but only if the two are intertwined as a single strategy that radiates throughout the entire organization.
The connection between commerce and cause cannot be simply an event or a product; consumers want to see a more deeply ingrained sense of commitment from a company. The ‘cause’ needs to resonate throughout the business as part of an overall strategy for ‘doing well by doing good.’ Every day more and more companies make this commitment to integrate the cause they champion into their everyday business practices.
How does a small business incorporate CSR into its operations and marketing? Include all stakeholders in the process of finding the right cause to align with, one that reflects the values of your organization and speaks to your entire team. A small business will usually find it easier to solicit input from everyone—board members, management team, staff and even valued clients. Once you’ve found the right cause, look for local charities first that support the cause and study their mission, values, and vision--make sure it reflects your business CSR. Integrate these messages into your overall business strategy.
Let the world know about your commitment to cause – weave your CSR message into your marketing materials—digital and print versions, advertising and product packaging. Include your cause partner at events and participate in theirs! Make sure you reflect this in encouraging staff to volunteer, co-branding and of course community and public relations. The local media will likely be very interested in your story of cause and commerce connecting the community.
Cause marketing and corporate social responsibility can fit together smoothly. Supporting a cause can become part of your overall CSR, just like managing resources wisely, identifying more efficient operating processes and responsible community interactions.
Author Leslie Riehm is the Vice President of Corporate Communications at Digital Donations.
Digital Donations™ develops fundraising and marketing solutions that connect cause with commerce to make a difference in the communities where we work and live.