In the last ten years, Millennials have become a more prominent consumer demographic, supporting businesses and brands that demonstrate a social and environmental conscience. When trying to decide between two brands of similar quality and price, 90 percent of U.S. shoppers are more likely to choose the business that identifies with a cause. When marketing your small business, it will be integral to think of ways to generate awareness for specific causes while also building your brand and increasing revenue. In order for your cause marketing efforts to be successful, you ought to consider transparency, implementation, and authenticity. The following cause marketing tips will better ensure success for both parties--your business and the non-profit(s) involved.
No. 1: Make the connection between your brand and the cause crystal clear. When partnering with a non-profit and/or choosing to support a charity effort, there should be a direct correlation between your business’ values and the cause at hand. Examples of these seamless connections include Patagonia’s environmental conscience and Staples’ support of education. However, it’s alright if this correlation needs to be explained--just make sure your business spells it out clearly for consumers. At first glance, Haagen-Dazs’ Honey Bee campaign might seem extraneous, until the brand explains that just under 50 percent of its ice cream flavors are affected by bee pollination (and lack thereof). Because Haagen-Dazs was able to effectively illustrate how their business is inextricably tied to maintaining bee colonies, their audience could understand and ultimately stand behind their efforts.
No. 2: Make cause marketing a long-term strategy woven into your brand’s values. For years, plenty of big names and thriving brands have made cause marketing integral to their image and ethos. For example, the Ronald McDonald House has been around for 40 years, while American Express has been connecting nonprofit support to consumer behavior since 1985. As part of brand development, Procter & Gamble looks for ways to extend brand values into long-term cause marketing strategies. Examples of this include Tide Loads of Hope as well as Pampers’ partnership with Unicef, which seeks to eliminate neonatal tetanus by providing vaccines in 58 countries. Through constant cause marketing, these two brand are able to maintain a double-digit sales growth percentage. Instead of seeing marketing and philanthropy solely as expenses, your business will need to see cause marketing as an extension of your brand’s character and an opportunity for storytelling, which resonates with consumers on a deeper, emotional level.
No. 3: Start your cause marketing efforts with your internal staff. To build a successful cause marketing campaign, your small business will need to get employees involved. In retail specifically, 70 percent of customers are more likely to contribute to or participate in a cause-related purchase/donation if an employee suggests it. This is why it will be integral for your brand to start building its passion (and knowledge) for a cause with its entire staff before asking your audience to partake. This can be done by seeking out and pinpointing internal brand ambassadors who can motivate employee participation. By embedding a specific cause into your small business’ culture, your strategy and efforts will become more convincing and authentic. An example of this principle in practice is Kmart’s $22 million donation to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 2014. The effort’s success was mostly credited to the dedication of its employees, who constantly reminded and educated shoppers about the effort.
No. 4: Show honest, ongoing dedication to the cause outside the marketing campaign. To truly show your brand’s commitment to a cause, your business will need to go beyond just saying they care. Not only does this substantiate your efforts, but it also provides an opportunity for publicity via social media or press releases. Patagonia is an exemplar of going the extra mile for their core values and causes--and reaping the benefits as a result. Patagonia has a clear value proposition: to make lasting, environmentally-friendly products. In one of their ads, they asked consumers to rethink their purchases, as more consumption creates more strain on the global environment. Patagonia’s brand galvanized behind this request by holding events in which customers could learn how to mend worn garments and by sharing their stories on the blog they created, Worn Wear. They even made a space for secondhand clothing in their Portland storefront. Not only did customers benefit by being able to wear their favorite gear for much longer (and learning how to fix it), but revenue and sales also increased for Patagonia the next year. For businesses large and small, cause marketing builds loyalty and trust, which eventually harvests brand advocates. It can also be the dealbreaker between your small business and its competition. How can your small business build community around a cause?
Written by Melissa McElhose, NALA Blog Writer