Maybe you’ve heard that 2016 was projected to experience a 3.7% increase in cause sponsorship from 2015[1]. That’s because consumers are becoming increasingly focussed on brands that “give back” in ways that align with the values of their ideal customers.

Sounds easy enough, right? Choose a social cause that your target audience does (or would) support, make an announcement that you’re now donating a portion of your profits to that cause and you’re off.

Not so fast.

There are more statistics that may interest you: As much as 78% of consumers have donated to causes at check-out in retail stores[2], and most of them felt good about it. However, of those who did not donate, most cited a lack of knowledge about the cause…and therefore a notable disconnect with the brand and the probability of an eventual split.

And there’s even more: Millennials make up the largest portion of today’s workforce (one in three employees is under the age of 35[3]), and three-fourths of them agree that a brand’s environmental and social awareness and commitments play a large role in their employment decisions. Those same candidates also claim they’d take a salary cut in order to work for a socially responsible company[4].

So what does all of this mean for your brand?

It means that adopting a cause isn’t enough. You’ve got to prove it. You’ve got to market it. You’ve got to use it in your experiential branding strategy. And you’ve got to engage your ideal customers AND your team members.

Let’s talk about how you can do this cause marketing thing the right way.

Cause Marketing, the Right Way, from Start to Finish

Before we proceed, I’d like to make one thing clear:  The success or failure of Cause Marketing does not rest on the shoulders of the consumer. The consuming public—especially the socially conscious sector—knows what it wants. If they’re not finding it, it’s because your message is not clear. So, keep in mind…

It is the responsibility of the brand to put out clear, connective Cause Marketing messages.

In other words, consumers know what they’re looking for. It’s your job to give them the information they need to make informed decisions…not their job to decipher what you’re trying to say about the social mission of your brand.

Consumers are way too smart for vague cause messaging. Just as they’re uber-conscious about supporting causes they believe in, they’re uber-conscious about only patronising brands that are clear and up-front about why, how, and in what way a cause is being sponsored.cause-marketing

Ask a consumer if they care about social causes, and if they wish to support companies that sponsor social causes, and statistics tell us that they’ll say “Yes.” However, ask them to name a company that supports a cause they believe in, and they’ll be challenged to do so.

What brands do consumers perceive as socially responsible? I could get complicated about it, but here’s the major truth:

Consumers view companies that say they’re socially responsible as being socially responsible.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that you can lie about your brand’s level of social responsibility or cause sponsorship; however, what I am saying is that you must LET YOUR AUDIENCE KNOW ABOUT YOUR BRAND’S GOOD DEEDS.

There are businesses out there touting their own socially responsible actions, not doing anything close to the scope they’re claiming…but still getting credit for it. There are also businesses out there doing lots of great things but not telling their audiences about those good deeds…and their brands are suffering for it.

So, here’s an idea: How about you do the things that will classify your company as a socially conscious brand AND tell consumers about what you’re doing—in ways they’ll notice and remember?

This is all about reputation…just as branding always is.

The Red Cross, Starbucks, Dove, Toms…are the obvious ones. We know they’ve all got a cause and that they’re doing great things. But what are Target, Disney, Google and Microsoft doing that’s even more socially conscious…to gain even higher cause-sponsorship ratings than The Red Cross? The levels are questionable, but it doesn’t matter. What does matter is consumer perception, not how much each business does for their cause.

So how can you increase perceptions through Cause Marketing?

  • Define what your ideal customer sees as “responsible.” Remember that you’re ultimately trying to impress your brand and its spirit of charity in their minds.
  • Choose a cause that closely aligns with your brand’s corporate values, and make it clear, through your Cause Marketing, why you’ve chosen and connected with that cause.
  • Share everything your brand does for its cause through social media, your website, blogging and more.
  • Get as many team members, clients and potential customers as possible involved when you serve your cause.
  • As your brand sends out its marketing heartbeats, associate your ideal customer’s pain/problem with the cause. Often, when they can help/connect with others in their shoes (or older, more dilapidated shoes), they start to heal and open their minds to solving problems. And there will be your brand, ready for their partnership.

Getting your message right is imperative for a number of reasons, and one of those reasons is Attraction and Retention through Cause Marketing.

If you want to learn more about crafting a message that’s sticky and delicious to all the right people, then check out the Master Your Message 2-Day Event, a How to Build a Brand programme that will guide you in creating compelling content that makes every impression a good, and lasting, one.

[1] IEG Sponsorship Report

[2] Catalyst’s Revelations at the Register


[4] 2016 Cone Communications Employee Engagement Study

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