The Power of Cause Marketing

Considering today’s competitive environment, it has never been more important for small businesses to have something that separates them from their competition. Perhaps it is time to consider Cause Marketing.

As a broad definition, Cause Marketing is when a nonprofit and a for-profit corporation partner together with the purpose of advancing the mission-related work of the nonprofit and the marketing goals of the corporation. The purpose is to create a win-win situation for both participants.

With regard to the “marketing” side of the equation, the idea is to attract consumers who support the “cause” side of the program. Experience and history show that Cause Marketing, when used properly, can be a VERY effective way to attract prospects to your agency AND separate you from your competition.

It is very possible that if your business doesn’t stand for a cause, consumers may turn to your competitors. The results of the Cone Cause Evolution survey show that the number of consumers who say they would switch brands if the other brand were associated with a cause that they believe in has grown to 87 percent!

Even niche markets (i.e. college students) now reflect a preference for brands that they believe are socially responsible. A recent study from Alloy Media reflects that 95 percent of college students are more likely to pay attention to marketing efforts that promote a business’s partnership with a cause.

A joint venture between American Express and the Statue of Liberty Restoration Fund led to increased profits and donations. In 1983 American Express initiated the fund raising drive with a $6 million advertising campaign that came from its marketing budget. The company raised $1.7 million in a period of three months to restore the Statue of Liberty. American Express promised to contribute a penny for each charge on an American Express card, a penny for each purchase of traveler’s checks, $1 for each new card issued, and $1 for every vacation worth $500 or more sold at an American Express travel store. During that period, the use of the card went up 28 percent nationally. American Express coined the phrase “Cause-Related Marketing” during this campaign.

At the time of the writing of this column, close to 300 leading small businesses have adopted The Kindness Revolution™ as partners for their cause-marketing efforts. Here are some characteristics of their successful campaigns:

  • Their entire team is on board and believes in the cause. For a Cause Marketing program to succeed, the entire team must believe in the cause AND talk about it part of their daily communication. Would you rather hear a telephone greeting that says “Jones Allstate…we sell life insurance” or “Jones Allstate…leaders of The Kindness Revolution”?
  • They involve the cause in their social media programs. Connection with the cause in your content leads to engagement with followers. Would you rather read some positive news about something happening locally or read that it is time to get your oil checked?
  • They let prospects and customers know that by doing business with them, they are supporting the Kindness Cause. Consumers want to know that there is financial commitment to the cause. Be warned that general comments such as “We donate a portion of our proceeds to Make-A-Wish”, etc. are restricted unless you have made an agreement with the cause. Unless you state AND show a SPECIFIC amount of profits or sales to a cause, you are not allowed to state it. Our Kindness Revolution™ members make a specific monthly contribution to support the cause.

One of my favorite stories is that of one our Champions in Colorado Springs, Colorado. When he came on board with us, he said he had been selling insurance for 32 years and it stopped being fun. Since he joined The Kindness Revolution™, he has promoted himself as the CKO (Chief Kindness Officer) of Colorado Springs. When asked what he does, he now says “I promote kindness! I sell insurance to support my work.” People are intrigued by what he does, which promotes engagement, which promotes sales.

Try this…go to a social event and discuss a cause you believe in. Go to another one and discuss what you sell. You will see for yourself.

The collective dream of all small businesses is the same… the billboard, shopping cart ad, or direct mail piece that will cause your phone to ring off the hook with calls such as “I really hate to bother you, but can you sell me something”. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist.

Marketing takes time and effort. I simply shake my head in AMAZEMENT when I hear “I just don’t have time for that!” There is no Easy Button…