Jul. 21, 2011
Here’s a little experiment for you. Type “why cause marketing…” in your browser search bar and see what suggestions pop up. In preparation for writing this piece on cause marketing, that’s what I did and here are some of the suggestions presented:
“Why cause marketing works”
“Why cause marketing can backfire”
“Why cause marketing is good”
“Why cause marketing is bad”
These search results are telling. They speak to the wide range of experiences people have had with cause marketing.
I have always been a strong proponent of cause marketing and believe it to be a potentially powerful cog in the marketing mix. I still believe that but there is one big IF. Cause marketing is effective “if” the cause is relevant to the sponsoring brand. According to MediaPost, “there is a ‘rising disconnect’ between the causes companies support and the products they sell that is leaving consumers skeptical and less likely to participate.”
Let’s face it. People are cynical. If they think a brand has no real interest in a specific cause and is just “using” the cause to help it sell product, they are increasingly less inclined to support that brand. To use cause marketing effectively, the cause must be consistent with the company’s brand values and/or relevant to the products or services it sells. For a company like Tom’s Shoes which donates one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased, the relevance is clear. By contrast, KFC’s “Buckets for the Cure” donations to the Susan G. Komen fund to fight breast cancer, no matter how well intentioned, seems to come up short on the credibility test.
Cause marketing should be a win-win situation. There are thousands of worthwhile organizations which would benefit from increased awareness and financial support of their mission. And research tells us that consumers will consider a brand they don’t ordinarily buy if it supports a worthwhile cause. They will even pay more to buy a brand connected to a cause they believe in. But consumers tend to vote with their pocketbooks and if they aren’t buying the connection between the brand and the cause, they aren’t likely to buy the brand either.
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