October 22nd, 2014

5 Tips for a Successful Cause Marketing Campaign

by Mel Beasley

If the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge taught us anything this past summer, it’s that people want to be a part of something meaningful. Look at what’s happening this month with the color pink.  Everyone from airlines and shopping malls, to shoe brands and booze, are re-branding themselves or creating entirely new products in support of Breast Cancer Awareness month. Cause marketing is everywhere, but this is nothing new.

The idea of marketing your business in support of a cause really came to life in 1984, when the infamous “golden arches” founded the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Since then, numerous purchase-driven cause marketing programs have launched, creating full blown fashion trends like the yellow LiveStrong bracelet. National fundraising events are taking place all over the world, after the first ever Susan G Komen Race for the Cure in 1990. Men are even willing to alter their physical appearance by growing out their mustaches for Movember. History has shown that consumers will take great strides to support a cause they believe in, even if it means dumping freezing ice water over their heads.

Studies show that 79% of consumers would be willing to switch to a brand, similar in price and quality, if it is associated with a good cause. So how can your company step up it’s social responsibility and support a cause? Here are five tips to consider when planning your next cause-marketing campaign.

1. Get emotional.

When selecting a charity, make sure it’s something that hits home for people within your company. There are no better brand ambassadors than your employees, so take time to select a cause that resonates with everyone in your company. Take United By Blue, an apparel brand that has taken the initiative to protect our environment, for example. For every product sold, United By Blue removes one pound of trash from oceans and waterways. The company was founded by a group of avid outdoorsmen and women, who are passionate about protecting Mother Nature and taking environmental action. United By Blue employs a staff that fully embodies this mission. They don’t need to convince their employees to recycle or spend a Saturday morning cleaning the shores of a local beach; they already do this and therefore, are emotionally invested in the cause.

2. Make sure it’s a good fit.

Be sure the issue you are advocating for or the cause you are supporting, aligns with your company’s mission and values. Is the charity relevant to your brand? Will it speak to your target audience? Take NIKE’s partnership with the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF). In 2004, they created a product customers could buy to support the LAF cancer charity, and within weeks the iconic rubber yellow LiveStrong bracelet became a worldwide fashion item. The LiveStrong campaign spoke to both Nike’s customers and the LAF supporters, and aligned with the brand’s core values.

3. Select the right tactic.

From purchase, point-of-sale and action-driven programs, to licensed products and public relations campaigns, there are many tactics to consider when choosing the right type of cause marketing campaign for your business. The tactic you choose should not only be manageable, but also make sense for your brand. If you’re a small business, licensing a product with the Susan G. Komen Foundation may not be realistic. Hosting a fundraising event, however, may be a more viable option. TOMS One For One campaign is a perfect example of a tactic that is right on point. Every time a customer buys a pair of shoes, TOMS gives a pair to those in need around the world. This purchase-driven tactic is sustainable for the brand because they are giving away their own product, and it resonates with their customers because it makes them feel personally responsible for helping someone who needs it most.

4. Get social, go viral.

Today, social is everything. Everyone from the President of the United States to your grandmother is either posting on Facebook or sending a tweet, so implementing a social strategy for your cause marketing campaign is essential. In fact, social media and crowdsourcing can even be your campaign’s primary tactic. Let’s look at the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge for example. Within twenty-four hours of its launch, you couldn’t scroll through your Facebook news feed without seeing a video of someone pouring a bucket of ice over his or her head. Not only did this campaign go viral, the numbers show that the ALS fundraising campaign was a complete success. Facebook videos were viewed more than 10 billion times and reached more than 440 million people. Plus, the ALS Association received $115 million in donations and saw a 30-100% increase in registrations for the Walk to to Defeat ALS since the campaign launched. Talk about a solid ROI.

5. Follow-up.

Once your campaign is over, don’t let all of your hard work go to waste! So many companies devote an enormous amount of time and effort into a campaign, then never mention it again once it’s ended. Continue to talk about your efforts and leverage the campaign results, photos and success stories for new content. Start planning for next year and make it an annual event. Evaluate the campaign’s strengths and weaknesses, explore new ways for improvement or expand your efforts with support from an outside agency, like Sage Island.

With Christmas and the New Year right around the corner, it’s time to start planning your next cause marketing campaign! Whether you own a small business or work for one, it’s always a good idea to keep in mind new ways you can increase your brand awareness. There’s always time to implement a viral campaign, like the ice bucket challenge, into your social media strategy. If you’re ready to start a new social media campaign or just need help refining your existing efforts, Sage Island can help. Our marketing team can implement innovative, attention-grabbing tactics that will build brand awareness for both your business and your cause. Contact us to find out how we can increase brand exposure for you today.

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