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  • Marketing

Putting Purpose Behind Your Cause Marketing

By Kelly Diamond

A lot goes into building your brand and corporate identity. From something as small as picking your fonts and color palettes, to defining your key values and mission statement–every choice needs to help tell the world who you are. Of course, all brands need to convey the quality of their products or services, but customers are starting to demand more. What was once perhaps nice-to-have is now becoming a deal breaker.

When it was once passable to only be a good corporate citizen, modern audiences are raising the bar for businesses and forcing them to take a stand on social causes. People want to align themselves with virtue, and they want their money to support that virtue. Put simply, providing a good product or service isn’t enough for some people–they want to be certain that wherever their money goes, a portion of it ends up supporting causes that they believe in. 

Using social causes as a way to position your business is called cause marketing, and it’s not a new initiative for many businesses. Perhaps for Earth Day, a company donates a sum of money to green initiatives; or during Black History Month, the company promotes awareness of different African American icons and their contributions or achievements. Other businesses may buy a sponsorship during Pride Month, or use its stores as drop-off stations for toy drives during the holiday season.

These are all nice gestures. But a fleeting good deed brings out the cynicism rather than the good will in people these days. People are looking for consistency from brands, rather than opportunism. And if your brand is trying to position itself as a caused-based business, you should hold yourself to a higher standard as well.  

Your cause must be endemic to your brand. For example, if you support green initiatives, then be green all year round and find new ways to advance that cause even outside of Earth Day. Make your cause such a fundamental part of your business that when people hear your company name, they think about the causes that you support as quickly as they recall your products or services. Brands like Ben & Jerry’s or The Body Shop are both great examples of businesses that have benefited from fully integrating cause marketing in their operations.

Cause marketing does much more than simply making you feel good–here are some statistics that prove the value of cause marketing from a study done by Edelman in 2018:

  • Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of consumers around the world now buy on belief, a remarkable increase of 13 points since 2017. These Belief-Driven Buyers will choose, switch, avoid or boycott a brand based on where it stands on the political or social issues they care about.”
  • “Belief-Driven Buyers are now the majority in every market surveyed, across all age groups and all income levels. Almost as many consumers aged 35-to-54 buy on belief as 18-to-34-year-olds, and the most impressive gains come from the older cohort, with an 18-point increase among people 55 years old and up.”

It’s not just customers who are paying attention to this. Employees are too! Another Edelman study found that 61% of employees are making decisions to apply, stay, or leave a company based on the core beliefs of the company on important issues.

Whether it’s tied to the product or service you sell, or a cause that is very close to you as a person, figure out what your business aligns with and build that into your overall brand and marketing strategy.

The business inclination is to make every dollar count toward your bottom line. But the aspiration of the brand must be willing to put resources toward equity in something greater than itself, even if the returns aren’t immediate. 

The key is to avoid disingenuousness. Your effort, however small, must be sincere and consistent. There are a lot of worthy causes out there, for sure; and by no means should you feel obliged to take up the mantle for all of them.  

Rather, create space for your cause. One that motivates you, embodies the values and virtues of your company, and would make both your employees and customers proud to support. One that humanizes your business and reminds the public of the people behind it, but likewise makes an effort to be a force for good.

When thinking about how you will go to market with this, look at it as a point of connection with your potential customers or clients rather than an ancillary side note. As individuals we often introduce ourselves by the parts of our identity we value most. We don’t hide those aspects that bring us the most pride, so feel free to take pride in the causes you support. If you are making genuine advancements toward the cause, then there’s no reason to be modest about your contributions. 

Likewise, as a business, feel empowered by your endorsement and the cause-driven partnership you’ve taken up. Network with it. Build connections with it. People want to know that there is a compassionate dimension to your brand to help them feel better about where their money is going. And if your business needs help defining your core values, mission, or vision, give us a call.

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