The words “cause” and “marketing” don’t always see eye-to-eye, given the seemingly contrasting nature of each word: “cause” is more often associated with non-profit advocacy groups, and “marketing” is attributed to the domain of advertising and sales. However, given current marketing trends, you may find cause marketing – a type of corporate social responsibility – spending more time in the spotlight.
A recent study found that if consumers perceive certain brands to have a positive impact, they experience twice the growth of comparable brands. As it turns out, millennials and Gen Z appeared to prefer brands that “have a point of view and stand for something”.
It can be attributed to the increasingly democratic online access to information: consumers can profile brands at lightning speed and filter their choices accordingly. As a result, brands can quickly rise with a cause – and fall equally hard if they get it wrong.
Embarking on a cause-driven marketing campaign can initially feel like walking through a minefield, but taking a calculated risk on one can reap long-term rewards. At worst, your brand might be accused of “woke-washing” or exploiting sensitive issues for marketing purposes. At best, you’ll create real social impact and be known for it beyond your targeted audiences. Follow this handy checklist as a guide for higher chances of achieving the latter.
Authenticity is key
When choosing issues to focus on, zero in on the ones your brand naturally aligns with. Dove’s consistent Real Beauty campaigns, for example, highlights its product’s strong points by relating them to a clear-cut, relatable message about inclusive beauty standards.
While not without its share of criticisms (as with most campaigns), the Dove campaign manages to stay relevant because of its actual portrayal of relatable women around the world, expanding its audience by adapting to the evolving global perceptions of beauty in the process.
Immerse yourself in the cause
Brands shouldn’t be discouraged from tackling ambitious issues. Experience will always be a great teacher – just make sure to include genuine immersion in your research process.
Probably the best and most authentic way to get to know your advocacy is to get as close to it as possible (especially if your strategy includes experiential marketing initiatives). You can do this through focus-group discussions, field work and even trying new workplace practices that adhere to your chosen cause. These moves will also inspire everyone involved to treat the subject matter with the utmost care, and enable ideas to be presented without romanticization, oversimplification or sensationalism.
With Pride Month in full swing for example, marketing for the LGBTQ+ audience in mind will be top of mind, but it must be done with a thorough understanding of all the smaller issues involved.
Set measurable action
Follow up your messaging with a well-outlined plan. Identify your goals, metrics for success and internal and external call to action.
Take Adidas’ Love Unites campaign. By including financial support for a relevant cause (The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ youth), the brand goes beyond superficially wearing Pride Month colors, by directly translating sales into support for their chosen cause.
Don’t take shortcuts
When conceptualizing and executing your campaign, you should try to remain as faithful as you can to your chosen cause.
Will your zero-waste campaign generate more waste in the process? Are there action items that conflict with your messaging? Are you taking shortcuts that go against the spirit of the campaign? Any “yes” answers to these and other similar questions should force you to revisit your strategy and execution.
Sustain your efforts
You’ll know you’ve exceeded expectations, when your campaign resounds well beyond the timelines you’ve set and the deadlines you’ve met.
Take San Mig Light’s “Mahaba-habang usapan” roundtable series for this year’s Women’s Month. What was initially a response to a 2017 campaign accused of promoting catcalling turned into a genuine venue for discussing related issues. It not only turned a potential PR crisis around; the campaign also kept the discussion going. Brands that listen are keepers.
To sum it up, marketing with advocacies attached is probably not a situation where you can “fake it ’til you make it”. There’s no escaping the watchful eyes of netizens (or the relentless whispers of your own conscience).
Partners like AdSpark can help you navigate the cause-oriented marketing minefield, and help get your message (and your convictions) through, loud and clear. Read about our products and solutions, and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to begin your journey.