This recent article in Forbes really got my attention, First of course because I’m a marketer and the author is the CM&CO for Mastercard but, also because I believe in cause marketing and the confluence of cause and commerce is at the heart of the Digital Donations ecosystem. The author, Raja Rajamannar states “As marketers we have long championed cause marketing programs as an impactful way for brands to get involved, but our programs can go further by evolving them from “nice-to-dos” to “must-dos.” The question is how do we get there from here?
The goal beyond just marketing your business as aligned with a cause is to develop a long-term plan where ‘doing good as part of doing business’ is an ingrained component of your business strategy.
It’s clear that our world faces huge challenges – clean water, financial services, poverty, education and saving the planet. The millennials (and GenZ) look to businesses as a force for good and their most favored (read purchased) brands are engaging with social issues earning their loyalty and trust. As more consumers decide to support causes with their purchasing decisions how and why you associate your brand is a key consideration in your planning.
The article makes several salient points on how to do this ‘right’:
The Right Cause. “A carefully chosen, brand-relevant cause can grow and evolve over time, magnifying the impact on benefactors and the company.”
Before you jump on the latest bandwagon for a noble cause do some research. If your alignment is to be authentic the cause should make sense in your business model. A consumer isn’t likely to ‘see’ the connection between a purchasing a specific motor oil and educating children in rural America. You can create or force a connection, but a more natural cause might be pollution in the area where the children live.
Set — and achieve — measurable, transparent goals. “. . . clarity around the consumers’ role in helping achieve these goals, is probably your most important piece of communication.”
Consumers want to know how buying your product or service is integral for the success of the cause. The most direct connections are the easiest to understand such as buy one, give one. There is no doubt that by buying this product a second one is donated to the cause; it’s a clear connection that’s easy to understand.
Partner appropriately as they become an extension of your brand. “Not all partners are equal, even if they seemingly have the same mission.”
The volume of charitable organizations that share the same mission or vision is enormous. Some are more successful than others and are more targeted in that overall goal. Consider the approach and specific solution each NPO proposes and what how that can become part of your brand and overall business strategy.
Look for sustainable programs beyond the donation. “By choosing and establishing longstanding relationships with the right non-profit partners, cause marketing programs have the potential to have a dramatic cumulative effect.”
This is the goal of any long-term cause marketing program. The growth of what started as a small, locally based program can over time expand beyond the community, across the country and around the globe. Consider the impact a local before school meal program can have – hungry children cannot pay attention and learn. No longer focusing on their empty belly translates into doing better in school, better jobs and stopping the cycle of poverty.
Clearly, we are making an effort to come together to solve problems and create a better life. By carefully choosing the right partner for a long-term, growing cause and commerce alliance every
brand can have a positive impact and profitable business.
The referenced article appeared on the Forbes.com site July 10, 2017