Partnering for a Better World
[Editor's Note: David Hessekiel is the co-author, with Philip Kotler and Nancy Lee, of the new book, "Good Works!: Marketing and Corporate Initiatives that Build a Better World … and the Bottom Line." Here, he talks a little about cause marketing and its impact on the nonprofit world.]
When I started out in this field 12 years ago, there was a tremendous division in the corporate world between those who were engaged in corporate social responsibility and those in cause marketing. Caricaturing a bit to make the point, people in corporate social responsibility were policy wonks focused on policy issues (e.g., environment, labor, governance) and were quite disconnected from operating business concerns. Cause marketers were seen as very promotionally driven marketers motivated to create short-term tie-ins with nonprofits to drive sales and publicity.
The reality was rarely that extreme, but there were elements of truth to those stereotypes. Over time it has become clearer that it is not wise for corporate social responsibility work to be divorced from the strategic needs of the business, and that highly promotional cause-marketing campaigns that are perceived as inauthentic and opportunistic will not stand up to public scrutiny. Fortunately, we've seen tremendous convergence between the CSR and CM communities as business leaders concluded they need to be more holistic.
There is not one widely accepted phrase to describe this phenomenon. Some of those in vogue these days are purpose-driven marketing, values-based marketing, social entrepreneurship and cause marketing. What they share is a common belief that a business can simultaneously build a better world and the bottom line. That's why my co-authors and I used that phrase as the subtitle for our book "Good Works!"
Reams of market research make it clear that consumers around the world prefer to buy from and work for companies that are socially responsible. In the most recent research from Cone Communications, 94 percent of consumers surveyed indicated that price and quality being equal, they would be likely to switch to a brand that supported worthy causes.
For your nonprofit staff thinking about developing or expanding corporate relationships, it is critical to understand a few concepts.
1. Cause marketing is not a disguised ask for a purely philanthropic gift. Nonprofits seeking to develop corporate alliances must first determine what value they can bring to a business partner (e.g., a powerful brand, an active community of supporters, intellectual property, ability to connect with a desirable demographic group). Armed with the knowledge that they can add value (and that they have the internal systems to service a business partner), they can confidently discuss opportunities with potential partners.
2. Cause marketing encompasses a broad range of business goals. Although the best known campaigns seek to influence consumers, many programs target retailers, employees or other stakeholders, and most engage a combination of those groups. Strategic and tactical goals can range from increasing sales, enhancing brand reputation, generating loyalty, attracting and retaining employees, generating referrals, or reducing expenses, etc.
3. Cause marketing is not only about campaigns linking donations to sales. To help businesses and nonprofits expand their vision of what they can achieve together, "Good Works" breaks down this field into six types of initiatives:
- Cause-related Marketing links donations to consumer action (Pampers donating a maternal tetanus vaccination to UNICEF when a package of disposable diapers is purchased).
- Cause Promotion spreads awareness of causes and often encourages people to donate money or time to them (Macy's asking consumers to donate to Reading Is Fundamental and rewarding them with discounts).
- Corporate Social Marketing generates behavior changes (Energizer and the International Association of Fire Chiefs advising consumers to change smoke alarm batteries when they change their clocks).
- Corporate Philanthropy involves direct corporate contributions (Pfizer supports the International Trachoma Initiative with cash grants and in-kind donations of medicine).
- Community Volunteering supports employees, retail partners or franchisees in volunteering their time (FedEx engages employees around the world in the Safe Kids Walk This Way initiative).
- Socially responsible business practices support social causes, community well-being or the environment (Whole Foods Market has partnered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium to develop a labeling system identifying the sustainability of various types of seafood).
Ideally, purpose-driven marketing is a well-thought-out, long-term endeavor. Short-term thinking still dominates at many companies, which can make it difficult to maximize the impact of purpose-driven marketing (or many other types of marketing for that matter).
There are people who are cynical about cause marketing and quick to criticize programs that are not transparent or that they judge to be ill-conceived. In this Internet age, it's important for companies and nonprofits engaged in cause marketing to do their homework in advance, make their programs transparent and be prepared to respond if criticism surfaces.