Regardless of your industry, it’s a well-known fact that your marketing campaigns need to revolve around something more than just your products.
In a more traditional vision of the world, private organizations and businesses are out to make money, whereas social goals and community goals are pursued by public institutions. This however is a model that no longer applies, and this is because the private sector is moving into the public sphere to take on new roles and responsibilities. This approach, which is ‘operationalized’ by cause marketing is actually connected to a different way of doing business altogether, which is impacting not only your marketing division but your whole organization.
Your customers need to be able to see a bigger cause behind your company or brand, something that can engage them and involve them in a broader, more inclusive call.
Why Corporate Social Responsibility is Not Enough Anymore
This is nothing new, as companies have already done this for many decades, through the tools provided by CSR or corporate social responsibility.
According to this approach, as businesses approach markets with a profit-driven mindset, they need at the same time to take into account a set of interests and values which are not only connected to the company’s shareholders but in fact relative to a much broader set of individuals called ‘stakeholders’. A stakeholder is any individual affected by the company and by its decisions, regardless of the fact that they may be employees, customers, or the inhabitants of the areas where the business resides.
The issue with CSR is that simply ‘thinking about’ your stakeholder community is not enough if your profit motivation is at the top of your agenda. Contemporary organizations need to move past this model and become ‘impact first’ organizations, or entities who are going to accept jeopardizing profits in order to make a genuine contribution to society or to the environment.
What is a Cause Marketing Campaign
Those companies that embrace this principle are often going to convey it to their audiences through cause marketing campaigns. A cause marketing campaign is a marketing campaign where your brand is going to develop a message that allows it to connect to its audience by focusing on impacting a social or environmental cause that is connected to your business.
As many companies simply try to take advantage of social causes, by simply greenwashing their marketing strategies, it has become hard to create a campaign that can actually connect your brand to a valuable cause and show actual commitment to making a lasting impact. In this post, we’re going to look into this in more detail providing you with a short checklist of things to look for in your cause marketing campaign so that you can be successful with it.
To help you navigate the post please find below a short index. Enjoy!
- Steps to a Cause Marketing Campaign
- Being Believable and Authentic
- Earned Media and Social Media Relevance
- Measure Your Impact
1. Steps to a Cause Marketing Campaign
A cause marketing campaign is a possible strategy, which needs to be aligned with your marketing goals. Without going into too much detail, we could say that a cause marketing campaign is usually associated with attracting a specific set of customers that may be influenced by the purpose of your organization and how committed your business is to make lasting social and environmental change. In broad terms we could say that you are either trying to acquire new customers, trying to retain your existing customers, or even ‘stealing’ your competitor’s customers. Once that has been clarified the process is more streamlined and could be broken down as follows:
- Selecting Your Cause. Once you have determined your marketing campaign goals, a cause marketing campaign starts with selecting your cause. The main factors that can be taken into consideration when choosing your cause could be (1) your products and services, (2) the value of your employees (3) your brand mission and promise, (4) your customers. In short what we need to do making sure that our cause is aligned with the result we want to achieve, for instance developing a stronger employer brand, or foster more loyal relationships with our customers.
- Selecting the Type of Marketing Program. This stage is a little more articulated as there are many ways to go. Here are some examples: Transactional Campaign. This model is based on value transactions, for instance, a purchase is made in exchange for a donation to a cause. Licensing. In this case, a company pays a cause (for instance a not-for-profit entity) to use its brand endorsement. Message Promotion. In this case, a company uses its resources (its marketing budget) to promote awareness of a cause. Issue focused. In this case, a brand creates a partnership with a cause to increase its chances of success. Business Activity. In this case, a brand integrates the ethical practices of a cause within its everyday routine.
- Selecting a Partner. In this case, what you are doing is finding the perfect match for your company. Selecting the right partner can be a challenge, but there are a lot of things you can consider to be successful in identifying the right entity. Here’s some advice: Start with finding an organization aligned with your cause (use for instance unfoundation.org) and consider their expertise and ability to actually make progress with the cause. Once you have shortlisted the organizations take a look at their leadership, their employees, and board members. Review their resources so as to assess how far they are able to go with the funds at their disposal so that you can assess the benefit you can deliver to them. Last but not least, review their reputation and assess their reach in terms of the audience they are able to access, and that you would access in terms of earned media.
- Communicating the Cause. This relates to communicating the cause both internally and externally. Internally. This step relates to making sure that you can communicate the campaign internally to your organization and involve all of your internal stakeholders in the process. Consider running training programs so that your employees will be actively participating in the campaign and they’re aware of your social cause program. Externally. In this case, you want to make sure your cause is going to be communicated to your audiences. Make sure to stress why the cause you have chosen matters, what you are going to do about it, how it connects to your brand, and how your customers can get involved.
- Testing the Message. Make sure you are using a group of independent assessors to take a look at your program, use people from your company, from your partner company, use customers, suppliers, and distributors to get as many perspectives as you can.
- Measuring Results. This is about making sure that you are setting up the right metrics to evaluate the results of your efforts, both in terms of your company and in terms of the impact you made on the cause you’ve selected.
Great! Now that your campaign is up and running let’s move ahead and look at some of the challenges that come with running a campaign, and how to address them.
2. Being Believable and Authentic
In order to be believable and authentic, your organization needs to pick a cause that is aligned with the values of your business.
In a certain sense, it has to be linked to why you are in business. This element of alignment between your business and the cause has to connect to a variety of factors, which go from your mission and vision statement to the overarching meaning of your business, and what fills you and all the members of the company with determination, commitment and pride.
As a simple rule of thumb consider that in order to be believable and authentic your business needs to connect to a specific and narrow goal. At the moment, companies who are out to pursue objectives that are too vague or too big for them are not portraying the most effective image of themselves towards their audience as their message is nor memorable or meaningful.
In order to show some degree of trustworthiness, your organization needs to connect to something specific and clearly aligned with its values.
3. Earned Media and Social Media Relevance
One of the main goals of developing this type of strategy is earning positive reinforcements in the earned media space. Earned media is all of the content that ‘talks’ about a brand without the brand controlling what is being said. It’s essentially like PR content that your company can look into, but can’t control beyond making sure that the information being reported is accurate.
As a part of the social media component of this strategy is important to connect our marketing campaign to specific results and outputs. These outputs are usually one of the following:
- BrandingAwareness. In this case, the brand will expand and increase its online presence, and is likely to increase its organic positioning if the content is subject to a high volume of interactions and engagements.
- Client Relationships. In this case, the brand might increase its number of followers and the volume of value-adding interactions that happen within the website.
- Attracting and Converting New Customers. In this case, the output is connected to higher profitability and the impact of the marketing campaign can be assessed in terms of traffic generation, lead generation, apps download, data collection, and actual sales.
- Customer Retention. In this case, you are out to increase your mentions, your number of returning customers, and overall positive feedback reviews.
These could already be considered quantitative outputs that can be considered a good measure of the success of your cause marketing campaign. But we should not only measure this strategy in terms of the impact on our brand but in terms of the impact on the actual cause. In this sense, the next paragraph will help you navigate the challenges of measuring social-environmental impact with the right amount of rigor.
4. Measure Your Impact
Impact measurement is one of the most challenging components of a social marketing strategy as in some cases it may seem as if the impact you are making is intangible or really hard to assess. In many cases, however, even the most intangible aspects of our work can be measured if the right type of data is collected.
To some extent, we can see how the measurement of your impact is mostly connected to how structured your marketing strategy is, and how data-based are each of its stages.
In general terms we could say that there are 5 levels of impact management we can consider in the context of our marketing plan which is provided by the NESTA foundation:
- Level 1. At this level what happens is that there is an established relationship of causality between your strategy and your expected impact but you are not backing this connection up with any collected data.
- Level 2. At level 2 we have data, but it’s just data connected to what you did, to your initiatives, but not data connected to the effect that these activities had on the communities you were trying to affect.
- Level 3. At level 3 you have data connected to the outcomes of your strategy but you don’t necessarily have a clear understanding of the outcome are dependent on your own actions or any other environmental factor.
- Level 4. At this level, you have all of the previous information, plus you have conducted experiments with control groups to assess the causal relationship between your activities and the impact they had on your target population.
- Level 5. At this stage, not only do you have all of the necessary proofs discussed so far, but you also have proof of generalisability, so that your approach to the issue could potentially be scaled.
Great, now that we’ve covered all of the issues connected to developing a cause marketing campaign it’s now time to move on and draw a few conclusions.
There you have it. In this post, we discussed some of the most relevant elements to discuss when developing your cause marketing campaign. It’s very important to pay attention to all of these details as the backlash derived from a mismanaged cause marketing campaign can be very harmful to your company and can lead to loss of reputation or credibility.
In this sense, it’s important to remind ourselves that if we choose to be an impact-first organization, we need to show a very strong degree of our commitment to our cause and be fully transparent about the strategy we choose to make a difference.
In this sense, we need to constantly remind ourselves about how our strategies and actions can create a chain of causality that provides actual change and benefit to the lives of the people we’re willing to help.
We hope you found this resource useful and don’t hesitate to take a look below if you are looking for more content on this topic.