Tis The Season To Give: Cause Marketing

It’s holiday time, so let’s take a moment to talk about giving. I’ve always said corporate giving is good PR and good PR is good business. It seems many others are in agreement lately. Cause Marketing Campaigns are everywhere and they are getting excellent results!

When a campaign works on me, a PR pro, I know it’s good. The other day I caught a commercial showing a girl in Africa sitting by a hut. A couple of school boys run by as a voiceover tells us that girls living in sub-Saharan Africa miss a week of school each month because they lack basic feminine products. Eventually, they fall so far behind they drop out. The voice tells us every time we buy Always brands here, they’ll donate products there, so these girls get the education they deserve. Two days later, I — a woman who has been loyal to a different brand throughout my adult life — bought the Always brand for the first time. Cause Marketing, ladies and gentlemen.

A recent study by Cone, Inc. reports that eight in 10 Americans say a company’s support of causes will win their trust. In addition, 80% of Americans can name a company that stands out in their mind as a good corporate citizen, an increase from 26% in 1993.

The big trend now is companies joining together to make a difference (and increase sales). With The Red Campaign, The Gap, Converse, Apple, Hallmark, Armani, Motorola and AMEX are all selling red products with proceeds going to fight AIDS in Africa. This campaign is ingenius for two reasons:


1. By uniting these brands, they can really get their donation numbers up. They recently announced they’ve donated $50mm in just 20 months. An astounding figure they would not have reached with only one product. It makes for a great press release and gives the marketers something to talk about.

2. Consumers get to show off what caring global citizens they are by owning these red products. It’s like folks wearing wrist bands or sticking ribbons on their cars to show off their philanthropy. For many Americans, if a good deed is to be done, and no one is there to hear about it, it won’t be done at all.

I don’t mean to sound cynical, but letting your customers show off their goodwill drives them to action. The producers of Comic Relief knew this when they gave away tee-shirts with donations.

Edelman recently released survey results indicating price isn’t even a factor anymore when it comes to Cause Campaigns. It’s all about that oh-so-good-feeling and letting others know how good they are: “85% of consumers around the world are willing to change the brands they buy, or their consumption habits, to make tomorrow’s world a better place. Over half (55%) would help a brand ‘promote’ a product if there was a good cause behind it.”

That said, the Red Campaign is not perfect. The best Cause Campaigns reinforce your brand. If you are a technology company, donate technology products or computer training to needy kids. If you are a sportswear manufacturer, sponsor the Special Olympics…

With The Red Campaign, I had to research the companies involved. I knew there was a phone and a clothing company and that Bono was somehow behind it – but I couldn’t have told you the products for sale had I not gone to the site. Having so many brands involved with an important, but unrelated cause, they aren’t creating the brand connection that fosters consumer trust. The connection that ensured I knew exactly what brand I was going to buy after seeing the Always Africa commercial.

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