Socially conscious marketing is not a new concept, but it has grown with the rise of Millennial’s immense buying power. Their purchasing habits are influencing and fueling ’cause marketing’, forcing business to evaluate how they market to a group of consumers who care about the social awareness of the brands they support.
Supporting a cause is no longer just a marketing tactic; it’s a successful brand attribute. Consider Toms – the shoe company famous for donating a pair of shoes to a needy person with every purchase. A recent study showed that 70% of millennials will spend more on brands that support a cause or demonstrate social responsibility. When a consumer feels good about their purchase and believes their purchase is doing something good in the world, loyalty to your brand increases.
Many companies have been slow to integrate cause marketing into their strategies. A survey from 2015 revealed that 90% of Americans wished more of the products, services and retailers they use supported a good cause. Consumers believe when a company donates some profits to a worthy cause (rather than, say, giving a CEO an enormous bonus) that company is more deserving of their dollar.
Connect Company and Cause
When a brand and a cause don’t seem to fit logically or the strategy isn’t executed well, it can create confusion among consumers and backfire. This can potentially create a backlash against your company and put you in damage control mode.
Honey Nut Cheerios recently removed their bee mascot “Buzz” to raise awareness of the declining honey bee population. Cheerios tie-in to their cause was logical. Inside the cereal boxes were seed packets for people to plant flowers, which would potentially help bees pollinate.
However, within a few days of the campaign’s launch, many people pointed out (via social media) the seeds for certain flowers might actually be harmful in certain climates (and not especially helpful to bees, either). The backlash wasn’t severe, but Cheerios do-good message seemed to fizzle behind the controversy.
Authenticity Matters to Customers
The best examples of authenticity are when a company ties a cause directly to their product and mission. Tide’s Loads of Hope helps people get clean clothes in areas where natural disasters have occurred. Outdoor retailer Patagonia has woven social responsibility through their business model, from how they make (and repair) their products, how they purchase materials, to how they run their factories.
Poor examples of cause marketing are when a business and a cause seem to have no obvious connection – or when a brand hops on a ‘cause bandwagon’. You see this every October during Breast Cancer Awareness month, when hundreds of products – from drill bits to sneakers to Tic-Tacs – ‘go pink’. Often consumers look at this as profiteering and will actually reject it as a marketing ploy.
Profit and Purpose Can Co-exist
If your brand wants to support a cause to raise awareness and/or money, your business and the cause have to fit authentically. The benefits of cause marketing are clear: it builds brand awareness, builds a genuine loyalty with your customer base, and helps others. For authenticity and support from your audience, weave your company’s value proposition into the fabric of your cause marketing. It will truly make a difference.