Nowadays, consumers are more socially and environmentally aware than ever before. They seek out companies who are doing the right thing. Think about the movement away from single-use plastics and the rise in health trends like veganism, which all stems from consumers being more conscious.
In the Cone Communications Global Study, 91 per cent of consumers said they were likely to switch from one brand to another that supported a good cause, as long as the cause-supporting product was equal in price and quality.
These trends show a powerful shift in consumer expectations, namely brands needing to do the right thing. Cause-related marketing is a mutually beneficial relationship between a corporate and a non-profit organisation or public cause. Today, brands who align with a charity in a meaningful way have the opportunity to positively impact their brand reputation by ‘doing the right thing’.
So, how do you start? Here are a few do’s and don’t when aligning your brand with a charity or social cause.
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DO: Choose a cause that aligns with your business values
To select a cause that’s right for your brand, first evaluate your business values and practices. If you are a company that sells animal products, you might look towards causes that support sustainable farming practices. Or if you sell feminine hygiene products, you may wish to support Breast Cancer Month in October, if this is something you care about.
Getting to know your target audience will help you understand their values and give you the insight into what causes are going to capture their attention. This should guide your choice of cause and it should be easy to draw links to your business values and goals.
DON’T: Fake it
Your customers can see through any flimsy links you make between your brand and a cause. If it isn’t real, they can see your efforts for what they are – a marketing and sales ploy. This is likely to lose your brand respect and in turn, sales.
It is important that your brand is invested in assisting the cause, far more than simply airing a statement in support or printing a claim on your product packaging. Your intentions should be genuine.
DO: Be Transparent
It isn’t enough to simply say “we are partnering with X”. It is important that your brand is transparent around what the support looks like. What are you contributing? Is $1 from every item sold going to the cause? Will your brand donate one product for every 10 sold? Or will you be helping your chosen cause to raise a certain amount of money?
Both you and your chosen charity need to say what is being contributed and where it is going. What will the support of your customers actually be doing? Share this on everything – product packaging, price tags, marketing materials, social media and your website.
Better still, provide your customers with feedback on how your support is going to date. Have you achieved 60 per cent of your goal? How much has been donated to the cause? By engaging your customers with frequent updates, they can see firstly that you are dedicated to supporting your chosen cause, and they can see where their funds are going. Your customers will get a warm feeling knowing their support of your brand is going to a good cause.
Remember, these updates are not the chance for marketing hype. They should be used as a method to engage with your audience and inform them, simultaneously improving your brand reputation.
DON’T: Think this is short term
Don’t jump on board with a cause if you think it is going to be a short term deal. Also, steer clear of bandwagon trends. Choose a trend that has longevity and legitimacy. Really supporting a cause means being in it for the long run. If you choose to support Breast Cancer month, for example, this isn’t a cause you support for one year and then move on. Align your marketing campaigns and show your support every year.
DO: Encourage engagement
Encouraging engagement with your campaign, rather than simply asking your customers to donate to your chosen cause, creates longevity. While donating to your cause is important, your marketing campaign should aim to raise awareness and seek a lasting effect. The ideal would be for your customers to truly get involved and volunteer their time for the cause or attend an event to raise awareness. When your customers are actually engaged, they are more likely to remember your brand and link this to the cause you support.
DON’T: Think this is purely the chance to raise money
While money is helpful and is largely the end goal of many charities, raising awareness and volunteering is just as valuable. By not asking for funds straight out, brands have a higher chance of success with their cause-related marketing campaign.
A study by Edelman Good Purpose found that 64 per cent of consumers believe contributing money alone isn’t a big enough investment from companies. Brands should integrate their social cause directly into their business. Aligning your chosen cause with your business values will position your brand more positively in the eyes of your consumers.
Cause-related marketing is a great way for brands to really show their customers what they value. The most important thing for companies to focus on is to choose a charity partner they deeply care about and to support their cause partner long term. Once a solid connection has been established, cause-related marketing works to promote this partnership in a way that raises awareness for the cause and boosts the brand’s reputation.