Cause marketing: time to win over the consumer

Especially millennials with our “trust issues.”

What is cause marketing, you ask?

It’s the pair of shoes you bought because the brand guarantees a pair will then be donated to a child in need. It’s the hat you purchased because you liked that the brand advocates for nature conservation. It’s the pink cookie you bought in October that supported breast cancer research (and you like cookies).  

We’re surrounded by cause marketing each and every day. Whether we realize it or not, it plays a huge role in our decision-making process as consumers. 

Cause marketing is not philanthropy. Philanthropy is writing a check and sending it to a non-profit organization. Instead, it’s the marketing of a for-profit product or business that benefits a cause or charity. Cause marketing is spreading the word that a brand supports a particular cause. 

According to Adweek, supporting a cause is no longer a choice for brands. It is an expectation. Research from Gartner Iconoculture found 77 percent of Americans felt a strong emotional connection to purpose-driven brands. 

It sounds easy enough—support a good cause, show the world your generosity and your sales will increase. But cause marketing is not a bullet-proof strategy. 

It’s no longer enough for a brand to simply stand behind a cause and expect a return on investment. Consumers are becoming more skeptical when it comes to brands supporting causes—specifically millennials

In fact, research conducted at the Haas School of Business at Berkeley in California, found “more than nine in ten millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause.”

Why? Millennials (born between 1981-1995) crave authenticity. Gen Z (1996 and beyond) does too. They want to feel like the brand genuinely believes in what they stand for instead of leaning on corporate social responsibility as a way to profit. If your campaign does not come off as sincere and authentic, it will fail. The for-profit has to live and breathe the values of the cause they are marketing or consumers won’t buy it. 

So how do you win over consumers who are increasingly socially conscious? It starts with choosing the right non-profit partner. 

When brainstorming causes your brand could work with, consider what makes business sense and integrates seamlessly into your company culture. Does the cause align with your brand? Do you share the same core values? Does the cause resonate with your target consumers as well as your employees? Does it alienate any of your key audiences? 

Once you answer these initial questions for the potential non-profit partner, it’s important to dig even deeper. 

  1. Does the organization have a strong online/social presence with cross-promotional opportunities? 
  2. Is the organization actually interested in a true partnership with you?
  3. How flexible is the organization in allowing you to customize the programs?
  4. Is the organization efficient and responsible with its funding?
  5. What is its overall reputation?
  6. Do the core values and mission of the organization align with yours?
  7. Is the organization large enough to cover your geographic reach and effectively cross-promote your brand? 
  8. Is the organization of a size where you can truly make a difference and won’t be among countless corporate partners?

When you choose the right non-profit partner, cause marketing has the potential to elevate your brand to new heights. This is your time to show your brand’s personality through action. Not only are you able to establish deeper brand preference with your consumers, but you get to do some good in the process.