10 Ways for Brands to Get Cause Marketing Right

October 12, 2017

By David Gioiella and Mark Littman

Over 50% of consumers check out brands prior to purchase to make sure they are involved in some sort of positive social impact, according to a 2013 Cone Communications Social Impact Study. Yet the majority of them find companies' communication about their Corporate Social Responsibility efforts confusing. Here are 10 tips to get it right:

  1. If the shoe fits.

    Take the time to think carefully about your brand's DNA and values, and how they might mesh with a worthwhile social cause. A good, sustainable partnership where both groups benefit is a two-way street, with a simple, accessible proposition.
  2. Think big. And think small. (Part I)

    There are over 8,400 charities rated on Charity Navigator. Some are big. Lots more are small. In considering who to partner with, do a bit of research and you might identify a lesser-known organization that is a perfect fit — and potentially more in need of help.
  3. Think big. And think small. (Part II)

    Sometimes a big star is good to drive your partnership campaign, and sometimes a regular person is perfect. And sometimes they work together to provide wide reach balanced with unfiltered authenticity.
  4. What do we want?

    Take the time to truly understand the objective of the non-profit partner. Distill it and agreed on clear metrics prior to developing creative. This will focus the creative, and provide a valuable yardstick to monitor effectiveness, and make corrections along the way.
  5. When do we want it?

    Timing can be everything. You need to remain acutely aware of the world around you. Things can and do happen in the news that can render your otherwise noble campaign insensitive or mis-timed. Like a disaster. Or a celebrity faux-pas. Or a corporate one. Stay super-alert and be ready to delay (or pivot) smartly.
  6. Go the distance.

    Almost all marketing executives believe that cause marketing is a valid business strategy, per a 2010 PRWeek/Barkley Cause Survey. So allocate enough resources to see the initiative through. Whether your partnership will last a month, a quarter or a year or more, plan to keep the creative relevant and consistently widely distributed the whole time.
  7. Be the change you want.

    The DNA of a strong campaign originates with your own team. The vast majority of people feel more fulfilled when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact at work, according to an Employee Engagement Study from Cone Communications. So look for opportunities in your community, however small, to get involved with your team – and together make a difference.
  8. Not everyone's a volunteer.

    People's passion and personal beliefs drive them to excel in the cause-marketing space. But they still have to support themselves. As a leader, remember to take proper care of your internal teams as well as your vendors. Just because it is a "cause-marketing" campaign does not mean it should be underfunded or free (see point 6, above). Like they tell you on the airlines, put on your own mask first, before assisting others.
  9. Don't be shy...

    Good cause marketing campaigns make interesting stories and great case studies. After all the work everyone's dedicated, leverage your own agency's PR strengths to get the story out. As a bonus, this will further help to raise awareness for the cause.
  10. Be humble.

    A successful cause-based campaign becomes larger than any one organization or individual. It can represent the best of humanity, joining forces for mutual benefit, and improving the world we live in together. Stop and think about what you are doing, and let it sink in. Pause and acknowledge it. And make sure everyone on your team has the opportunity to do the same.

"10 Ways for Brands to Get Cause Marketing Right." MediaPost, 10/12/17.

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