Cause Marketing: Making It Work
An article was shared with me, and it is hot off the press. This article by Andy Semons was published in AdWeek, and I love it. Trust me, after all these years in the nonprofit world, I’ve seen my share of amazing cause campaigns and ones that were total flops. In this article, he points out some key elements that are necessary for success. I have given you some highlights from the article below, which are focused primarily on the commercial side of the partnership plus I’ve added some from my perspective of the nonprofit side.
From the article:
- “Make the synergy apparent. The common ground between a for-profit and a cause should appear as more than a random or haphazard decision.”
- “Take a long-term view. Many successful brands have baked cause marketing right into their DNA and have made it an unwavering component of how they act.”
- “Walk the talk from the inside out. The CMO’s commitment to the cause starts internally by engaging and activating the entire company. By seeking and identifying internal brand ambassadors who are empowered to motivate employee participation, internal adoption is accelerated and becomes just as important as external activation.”
- “Demonstrate real-world commitment. Creating connections that go beyond just saying you care serves to validate a brand’s commitment to the cause and becomes a publicity treasure trove via social media and other channels.”
In the article, there are details and examples around each of the four points above, and I agree with all of them 100 percent.
From the perspective of the nonprofit, I would add a few to the list as well:
- Don’t overvalue your brand. I understand that every nonprofit believes they have a unique offering and in some cases, even unaided awareness is extremely high for a charity. But the charitable world is extremely competitive. Don’t fall into a trap of thinking that the commercial side of the partnership is the only beneficiary of a cause marketing strategy. Trust me, I’ve worked for and with some of the top brands in the country, and I can’t think of a single one that won’t benefit equally from a well-thought out cause-marketing partnership. But I’ve seen plenty of nonprofits “ask for the world” from their cause partners because they believe it is a privilege for the commercial brand to connect with their nonprofit brand. Please, don’t fall into this trap. Partnering has value to everyone (if done right).
- Make it relevant to your constituents. As you know from prior blogs, I feel very strongly about understanding the needs and expectations of your donors, as well as who your donors are demographically, psychographically, etc. Most commercial brands know exactly who their customers are. Every nonprofit should have an understanding of who their donors are. Relevancy occurs when the customer base and donor base share strong similarities. In other words, nonprofit marketers and fundraisers should take the time to not only ask themselves (although be careful of “navel gazing”), but perhaps ask some constituents about types of cause-marketing partnerships. As mentioned above and in the article, the synergy must be apparent. If it doesn’t make sense to either the customers or the donors, it could quickly turn into a problem for both brands. I have no doubt vetting occurs at all levels of legal and branding when these partnerships are inked, but just don’t forget to do some vetting with your constituents too.
- Use all your channels. I’ve seen partnerships where the nonprofit is counting on the commercial entity to do all the advertising outside of a simple notification—from the charity to the organization’s donors—that is hidden on some page on the website. For the full impact of the cause-marketing partnership to be realized, the nonprofit needs to own it as much as the commercial partner. Be proud of it and trumpet it to your constituent base. A lot of marketers and fundraisers worry about cannibalizing revenue (if they advertise a cause campaign) and/or view it as “sending just one more touch.” This is the wrong way to think about it. There will be the direct-revenue impact (and that’s why we should all be talking about revenue/marketing attribution), but if the partnership is set up properly, this will make your donors feel even more loyal to you and more excited to be a part of your brand.
- Don’t be afraid to share it—all the channels, donors, volunteers, members, social communities, etc. Yes, you are giving brand awareness to the other brand, and that is okay. Yes, there are regulations around you advertising another brand through the mail and using nonprofit postage rates. But there are a lot of channels and ways to get the message out there.
My final comment is that we know today and tomorrow’s donors view charities and charitable giving differently than their parents and grandparents. They expect you to protect your brand, but they also expect you to do everything possible to succeed with your mission. We’ve all heard nonprofits say this: “Our goal is to one day be out of business because that means we have solved the XXX.”
Finding the right commercial partners to help you do this is one way you can show your constituents how serious you are about putting everything toward achieving your mission.
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.