Cause-Related Marketing: How to make it work for you

Cause related marketing blog

When you think of marketing, do you only think of sales? You’re not alone in that thought. However, current marketing doesn’t seek to convince you to buy a product you don’t need. A marketer’s primary directive is to find (target) the customers who are actively seeking a solution to the problem our clients solve. A large portion of matching customer to company is communicating company values. One way we do this is through cause-related marketing.

Part of how customers choose who will solve their problem, is by which company’s values they align with. An IPSOS study conducted in 2017 concluded that since 2016, 50% of respondents are interested in what causes companies support, 48% are loyal to brands that sponsor good causes, and 41% pay attention to what causes a company supports. In a 2015 study, an IPSOS study reported that 84% of Canadians would switch brands to one associated with a good cause if the products and price were comparable. That staggering percentage is why we bring this blog to you today. Consumers are intelligent and want to put their money where their ethics are. Cause-related marketing is not just a novel idea, it’s an important strategy for businesses to employ.

Cause-Related Marketing Tip 1: Choose a Natural Partnership for Your Brand

If your company has an established culture of animal lovers and you also have an animal friendly office, there’s a natural connection there. Perhaps there’s a continued partnership that could be made. Is there a local animal shelter nearby that you could donate to? You could match contributions made by your employees. Perhaps you could even have an office mascot from that shelter and post updates about their life. This connection is organic and shareable. Most importantly, it’s something your employees will be passionate about sharing. Your employees are your first customers. They’re the ones who know your company culture and if they’re excited to share this information, your prospective customers will be too. Whether it’s environmental, animals, or human centred, the point is that it needs to make sense for your business, or it won’t work. Essentially, cause-related marketing is a strategy that allows you to bring your humanity to your business.

Using Wingman as an example, our Crew Chief, David Daigle, has a personal connection to the Make-a-Wish Foundation and giving back to this cause, and other child-centred causes, is very important to him. Through Wingman Wishes, he offers his crew paid time to volunteer for this organization or the organization of our choice. Wingman also has an annual goal of contributing $5,000 per year. Because this is something the owner is passionate about, it is part of our values at Wingman. It was something built into the fabric of what Wingman is and that’s what makes it work. The crew understands the Wingman cause and it’s part of why we love our company.

Cause-Related Marketing Tip 2: Be Selective in the Causes You Support

We’ve all seen those announcements where a well-meaning company jumps on a social cause trend that they’ve never shown an interest in. This is not the way to use cause-related marketing. And I do mean use. As much as it is meant to put good into the world, when it’s a business doing it, it is a tool to be used. It cannot be faked. Customers can smell insincerity a mile away, so businesses can’t decide they’re going to support something just because it’s trending. It’s disingenuous and you will lose the trust of your customers (a very big deal).

If a new cause pops up in your feed that you feel strongly about, set aside a good chunk of time to strategize how you will ensure that your company can truly support this cause. Ask hard questions to find out if the partnership makes sense. Remember, though your business is an extension of you as a small business owner, it is not you. I know that’s hard to hear when you eat, sleep, breathe your business, but it is true. Your causes must make sense for your brand. Your business has a personality and values of its own. It is its own entity and it has to be considered from all angles separate from you as the business owner. Make it make sense and make it count.

A recent example of a trend gone wrong is Blackout Tuesday in 2020. Companies around the world who had never shown an interest in the cause, posted black squares in their profile photos without fully understanding the reason. Some never did anything with the subject again. This is called performative cause-related marketing and it is not a good use of resources. If you have no intention of further supporting a cause with your business’ finances, or your time, do not jump on a trending cause. It is not beneficial to your brand, nor the cause. Whether or not the black square was the right thing to do, was it right for your business? Could you commit to supporting it as a company? As hard as this may be, personally, if the answer is no, then don’t follow that trend.

Cause Related Marketing Tip 3: Share When and Where it will be Organic

Cause-related marketing can be tricky to know when and where to share it. I think it’s because it feels wrong to boast. “Will I be seen as haughty?” We see a lot of social posts pop up around Thanksgiving and Christmas time when everyone is feeling generous. This is great! Don’t stop doing that! However, go back to tips 1 & 2. The generous giving from the holidays can support some charities entire year’s expenses, so continue supporting anything that makes sense for your business. And if it doesn’t make sense for your business (but won’t harm your brand) then do it personally. The giving is great! The thing you need to watch for is that you don’t make it performative. Sometimes it’s a great thing to share and other times it should just stay part of your personal, quiet giving that will authenticate your brand. So how do you know when to share?

Here are some ideas on how to share:

  • Have a corporate social responsibility page on your website. Here you can share your environmental, animal, or humanitarian efforts each and every day of the year. When your customers and business partners do their research, they will find a history of giving and that history will authenticate your brand values. You don’t need to make an announcement when you add things on this page. Just continuously add events, donations, and whatever support you can offer your cause.
  • Share a volunteer post on social media. The best thing to share on social media is when your staff has volunteered their time. While financial donations are excellent, they are not personal and can feel disconnected – anyone can give money, but not everyone will scrub toilets for their cause. Showing that you’ve taken the time, or allowed your employees to take the time, to invest energy in-person is much better to share. When your employees go to the actual location, they are far more likely to buy-in to what you’re trying to do with your social responsibility and that buy-in is immeasurable.
  • Share the cause’s social media post/campaign. Second to posting your employer/ employee volunteerism with the cause you’re supporting, share their posts. Use your platform to amplify theirs. While you’re at it, involve your customers. Offer to match their donation, or to give away free product or a discount to anyone who donates or volunteers with this cause.
  • Sneak it into a blog. You’ll probably notice that I used Wingman Wishes as an example in this blog. That’s for a couple of reasons: One, I LOVE that about this company, so I just want to share it with you because I’m so proud (employee buy-in). Two, I’m directing you to authenticate what I’m saying right this second. It’s not to be salesy, it’s to show that this is part of our brand and we know what we’re talking about.

Conclusion

If you remember nothing else about this blog, remember this: keep your cause-related marketing authentic. It can do great things to humanize your brand and make your customers stay loyal to you, but it must be done right. The next time you are looking to employ this marketing strategy, consider the tips above. You won’t regret helping others and it’s an extra bonus that helping someone helps you too. This is just one of the many things Wingman Direct Marketing can help YOU get right, so when you’re ready to get your marketing strategies off the ground, book a Wingman. You don’t have to fly solo!

If you remember nothing else about this blog, remember this: keep your cause-related marketing authentic. It can do great things to humanize your brand and make your customers stay loyal to you, but it must be done right. The next time you are looking to employ this marketing strategy, consider the tips above. You won’t regret helping others and it’s an extra bonus that helping someone helps you too. This is just one of the many things Wingman Direct Marketing can help YOU get right, so when you’re ready to get your marketing strategies off the ground, book a Wingman. You don’t have to fly solo!

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