Running a small business is never a walk in the park. Today’s consumers not only expect quality products at competitive prices, but they also care more than ever before about a company’s values.
Many big brands are tapping into cause-related marketing. But it’s not just large organizations that are benefitting from this form of marketing; many small businesses align themselves with good causes to stand apart from the competition and attract potential customers.
This guide looks at what cause-related marketing means, reveals why it’s such an effective form of marketing, and describes how to use it effectively to build your small business brand.
What is Cause-Related Marketing?
Cause-related marketing is a form of marketing where a business aligns itself with a charity or a particular set of values to raise awareness and funds for a specific social cause.
It commonly involves working directly with a nonprofit organization to raise money and help them achieve their mission.
A cause-related marketing campaign can mean donating a percentage of a sale to a charity for a limited amount of time, or it can involve more long-term relationships with organizations.
A Brief History of Cause-Related Marketing
A marketing campaign initiated by Rosica, Mulhern, and Associates is one of the earliest examples of cause-related marketing, launched for the Wally Amos cookie brand.
In this campaign from 1979, the company’s founder, Wally Amos, became the National Spokesperson for the Literacy Volunteers of America.
The campaign helped expand literacy programs across America and boosted brand awareness for Wally Amos cookies.
The term “Cause-Related Marketing” was coined in 1983 during an American Express marketing campaign. Every time someone used its card, the company donated one cent to raise money to restore the Statue of Liberty.
The campaign raised almost two million dollars, and American Express card use rose 27 percent.
More recently, Mercedes Benz and Estee Lauder have donated a percentage of sales to help fund cancer research.
Ben and Jerry’s has supported a variety of different causes each year. IKEA partnered with UNICEF for its “Children’s Right to Play” program.
TOMS shoes continue to donate a pair of shoes to children in need for every pair of shoes it sells. The list goes on, but cause-related marketing is here to stay.
The Benefits of Cause-Related Marketing
Apart from raising awareness and funds for particular initiatives, cause-related marketing offers businesses four main benefits:
Appeal to More Consumers
According to a report by Aflac on corporate social responsibility, 77 percent of consumers are motivated to purchase from companies committed to addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.
Cone Communications’ report also revealed that 92 percent of consumers would buy a product with a social or environmental benefit.
Boost Employee Satisfaction
Today’s employees also expect businesses to have higher standards when it comes to social responsibility. By 2025, 75 percent of the workforce will be composed of millennials.
In the Cone Communications study, 75 of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company, and 76 percent said they consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when choosing a company to work for.
Foster Brand Loyalty
Cause-related marketing is one of the most effective ways to connect with customers on a deeper emotional level and build brand loyalty. When companies support social or environmental issues, 93 percent of customers will be more loyal to the company (2).
Build Brand Awareness
Businesses that publicly support a cause can also benefit from word-of-mouth marketing. In short, people are more likely to spread the word about your campaign when it helps the wider community.
Apart from attracting local media’s attention, your cause-related campaign can also be incorporated into your social media messages to reach a wider range of consumers.
Cause-Related Marketing: Best Practices
To get the best results, it’s crucial to plan each cause-related marketing campaign carefully. Here are a few best practices to make sure all of your campaigns are as effective as possible:
Consider Your Audience
First, it’s important to consider your target audience and identify issues that connect with their values.
If you’re stuck for ideas, send out surveys to your email subscribers or social media followers to discover which issues matter to them.
When you start the conversation, people are more likely to get involved further down the line.
Research Suitable Partners
What do you care about?
It sounds like a fundamental question, but knowing the answer will make it easier for you to create inspiring cause-related marketing campaigns that connect emotionally with consumers.
If you care deeply about a particular issue, the campaign will come across as more authentic, and you’re more likely to focus on making it a success.
Research local causes and nonprofits. Which ones align with your beliefs? For smaller businesses, associating with a local cause or charity that local customers are aware of can achieve great results.
Consider Building Long-Term Relationships
Instead of creating a one-off campaign, consider building a long-lasting relationship with a charity or cause. Long-term campaigns are more likely to gain momentum and achieve more widespread recognition in the long run.
As with most marketing strategies, it’s essential to set goals according to your specific campaign. Without clear goals, you won’t be able to measure the success of your partnership.
Both partners should agree on a realistic plan that identifies critical targets and expected outcomes.
If you’re aiming to raise a specific amount of money within a certain time period, how many prospects do you need to convert? What is a realistic donation price?
Set goals that are achievable, bearing in mind your time and resources.
Be Transparent With Consumers
Consumers are entitled to know how their donations will be used. Moreover, greater transparency will increase consumer trust and engagement. With this in mind, be transparent on all product labels, on your website, and across social media.
Communicate the following:
• The nonprofit’s name and mission.
• How the campaign will benefit the nonprofit.
• The specific donation amount per purchase. Avoid vague phrases such as “a portion of the proceeds.”
• The start and end dates of the campaign.
Use your social media platforms and website to promote your affiliation with the cause and disclose donation amounts throughout the campaign.
Finally, if there’s an end date to the campaign, publish the total amount of donations generated.
Every campaign should be tracked.
First, to see whether goals are being achieved during a campaign, and second, to see how effective the entire campaign has been.
When you can clearly visualize outcomes, you can tweak future campaigns to maximize results.
• Which messages had the most significant impact on sales?
• Which online platforms generated the most engagement from consumers?
• Which tactics should you avoid next time?
Grow Your Company With Cause-Related Marketing
Today, an increasing number of consumers expect companies to stand on issues close to their hearts.
Furthermore, if you don’t get involved in cause-related marketing, you give your competitors the chance to take the upper hand.
Can your business support a cause that aligns with its values? As long as you’re authentic and transparent with consumers, cause-related marketing is an effective way to improve your brand’s image, stimulate sales, build customer loyalty, and raise funds for a worthy cause.