One of our passions here at Mythology is to help firms identify their inner "hero" and connect emotionally to their target customer segments. In today's cluttered world, only brands that can break through by attaching themselves to an idea bigger than themselves tend to succeed.
One tactic for aligning your brand with a cause that means more to the consumer than just the functionality of your product/service is "cause marketing." Typically, this is defined as
...a type of marketing involving the cooperative efforts of a "for profit" business and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit. The term is sometimes used more broadly and generally to refer to any type of marketing effort for social and other charitable causes, including in-house marketing efforts by non-profit organizations. Cause marketing differs from corporate giving (philanthropy) as the latter generally involves a specific donation that is tax deductible, while cause marketing is a marketing relationship generally not based on a donation.
Breast cancer awareness is one of the most successful cause-related marketing initiatives in history. Who hasn't seen a product wrapped in pink over the past few years? Even NFL teams sell pink hats and jerseys to support breast cancer awareness.
Non-profits dedicated to health and wellness are not the only "mission" to get behind. In some areas of the country, investing in an economic or community development effort can be very powerful. I can't help but wonder if Wal-Mart could have avoided a lot of their "Wal-Mart kills small towns" negative PR if they had a proactive cause marketing initiative around helping rural entrepreneurs.
However, when a cause becomes so big and so pervasive, does it help a marketer to align with it? Or do you get lost in the crowd?
There are of course many causes to align with, and the process for choosing a mission to connect to the brand is a very strategic decision. A few questions you may want to ask yourself:
- Does the cause have a natural connection to your product or service? Many breast cancer awareness partner brands are interested in gaining influence among women consumers, which is a broad category but one that makes sense for them.
- Can your brand be the dominant one associated with the cause? Or will you be lost in a crowd of other supporters?
- Do your employees have a passion for this cause? Generating broad interest and participation among your employees, channel partners, even vendors can generate better ROI and support for the charity.
How will you measure impact? Remember, this is cause marketing, not purely charity. Yes the non-profit or cause will benefit from your participation, but this is about building a brand and ultimately selling more stuff as a result. So how will you know if the effort was ultimately a marketing success or just another good charitable effort?
That last question is a fine line, and one that is important for your organization to understand. Cause marketing should not be managed by a company foundation or giving team; it is marketing, and should be a marketing team-lead effort (with support or partnership from others of course.)
If you're considering a cause or mission-oriented marketing effort, we'd be happy to talk through some more ideas and options.