With an increasing number of consumers shifting to brands associated with a good cause, businesses have a great opportunity to include making a positive impact a part of their core strategy.
But running an effective cause-related campaign requires a plan, authenticity and real action.
Lush Cosmetics Australia directors Peta Granger and Mark Lincoln are no strangers to these types of campaigns.
The retailer uses all its windows, social platforms and storefronts as broadcasting space for causes they support.
“If you’re going to do a [cause-related] activity or campaign, you’ve really got to drill down to what the root cause of that problem is,” Granger told SmartCompany.
“The goal should never be: we want lots of likes.”
1. Include your team when choosing a cause
When choosing a cause, it can be highly engaging and empowering to include all employees in the decision.
Lincoln and Granger recommend talking to your teams to find out what really matters to them.
“It’s not about us forcing our views on staff, they’ve got to truly believe in it,” Lincoln told SmartCompany.
At Lush Australia, everyone has the power to influence what cause marketing campaigns the company runs.
“Those ideas come from everywhere within the business,” says Lincoln.
“It’s what are we talking about over a coffee?
“The beauty about Lush is it’s very open-minded communication across the board.”
2. Find a strong partner
Whatever cause you choose to campaign on, it’s important to partner with an organisation or group that’s highly experienced and knowledgeable of the issue, says Granger and Lincoln. In other words, don’t start from scratch.
“The right partner will have 90% of the conversation ready”, Lincoln says.
“We partner up with people for their expertise [but also] because that’s where we want to funnel the funds.”
“The call to action is not going to be for us, it’s going to be for someone else,” says Granger.
3. Prepare your customer approach
Before launching any of Lush’s campaigns, whether its “Saving the Reef” or raising awareness about violations to asylum seekers, Granger and Lincoln invest heavily in training every employee across the board on the messaging, aims and outcomes of each cause marketing campaign.
Employees are given seven to eight ways to introduce campaign topics to customers.
“A lot of the training we do with staff is about reading customers,” says Granger.
“The way to approach a customer is different in most circumstances so we try to arm staff members with each possible style of customer that can come in or each possible reaction to something you might say.”
This conversation is continued on internal Facebook pages where frontline staff regularly give feedback and share tips during campaigns.
In these discussions employees address questions like: “How is the campaign going for you? Are you having any blocks? Is anyone having any surprising reactions from customer that you weren’t ready for? Is anyone using a great introduction that seems to be working well?”
This approach after pre-campaign training is designed to empower employees to take control and help each other spread the message.
“We have these lovely, multi-way conversations that make it easy to create solutions among staff,” says Granger.
“We are not the experts at head office, the real experts are the people dealing with the issues on the shop floor.”
4. Risky campaigns will kick up a fuss so plan well
With riskier campaigns, Granger says Lush always goes in well prepared.
“We prepare all the materials, all the training materials, all the openers, make sure people are really armed with a lot of information, we give people YouTube clip links so they can go and layer their knowledge on a particular topic,” she says.
“As a senior team we do plan ‘what is the worst that can happen on this topic’ and we plan around that.”
Lush recently fell into hot water for its “Go Naked” campaign posters featuring nude employees to promote packaging-free products.
“Consumers thanked us for showing real women’s bodies,” she says.
“Landlords not so much.”
People complained to the Advertising Standards Board, saying the shopfront ads were pornographic, offensive and had to be hidden from children.
The campaign was seen more than 20 million times, says Granger, with the likes of BuzzFeed, E!News, BBC and SmartCompany, picking up the story.
“Those articles led to thousands and thousands of conversations, great inspiring conversations [and challenges to the traditional] beauty industry,” she says.
Granger says the retailer sparked similar heat with their national campaign, “Soap of Hope”, which was aimed at debunking myths about refugees while increasing the spotlight on harmful treatment and labelling of people seeking asylum.
“We received a whole wave of complaints,” she says.
“But we did receive three times that in support.”
5. Finish what you start
At Lush Australia, Granger and Lincoln say they will continue talking about the causes they campaign on until real action takes place.
“For us it’s genuine care and passion for the issue so the value should drive any impact campaign,” Granger says.
“That comes from a motivation where you really are trying to resolve or fix something.”