The internet and massively increased connectivity is fueling increased transparency and honesty throughout the globe. A classic example of this is how political ‘vote banking’ is becoming increasingly hard to implement because of opinions and news that spread faster and covers a larger demographic.
With more and more discrepancies reaching a well-connected public at a faster rate, people are coming out in vast numbers to protest and promote different causes and create new movements that stand for their beliefs. And businesses are quick to understand that with the right tools and strategies, public opinion can be converted into increased sales and brand recognition.
Welcome to the age of cause marketing. And here’s how you don’t mess up at it.
The first thing that you should tackle when planning a cause marketing campaign is the cause itself. Is your brand image beneficial towards the cause you’re trying to promote? A telecom major promoting an anti-child labor message won’t be nearly as successful as a consumer sportswear product that derides its competitors for sweatshop production.
The second consideration is whether your company image is also lined up with the cause. Chicken fast food companies that pollute inland water bodies should preferably stay away from health and eco-friendly causes unless a sea change is in order.
Thirdly, does your target demographic actively espouse your cause? Home security companies would be better off holding anti-crime rallies and neighborhood safety drives (stuff that appeals to families) as opposed to anti-censorship laws.
Remember, cause marketing isn’t a simple undertaking that you can plan over a couple of days. To launch a campaign you first have to understand your cause intimately and assess the kind of infrastructure that its supporters can bring to bear.
While smaller companies may not see the need to be overly worried about infrastructural problems, large-scale campaigns that take off in a big way can be hampered by a lack of adequate logistics, tracking and support staff. The whole idea behind a cause campaign is that you leverage your company’s resources to attract consumers to a cause, while scoring brownie points for brand recognition and corporate ethics – if resources are lacking, the blame usually finds its way to your shoulders.
Another problem with a lack of infrastructure is that it promotes embezzling and dishonest disclosures. And believe me, when it comes to cause marketing scams, the corporate sponsors are most often the ones who get ALL the bad publicity. So get your act together, plan ahead and run thorough background checks on all your NGO partners before throwing your cause in with someone else’s.
That said, once you’ve found the right partners, you should always fully include them in your plans and discussions. They know a lot more about your cause that you do and it’d be wise to consider what they have to say about each component of your campaign. Besides, by giving your partners a stake in the campaign and retaining them in an advisory capacity at the very least, you can foster increased cooperation and higher levels of credibility.
It’s also quite important to give your employees a seat at the table. In fact, before you pick a cause, hold an in-depth, company-wide poll and make a list of issues your employees are passionate about. Choosing your cause from this list will ensure that at least part of your workforce is backing you 100%.
Cooperative partners that see the value of your brand in promoting their cause, smart executives who understand the flip side and a workforce that agrees with and emulates your cause marketing campaign can go a long way towards fighting prejudice about your motives – the single largest problem you’re likely to face.