How Creativity and Technology are Fueling Today’s Cause Marketing

Tying promotional efforts to a cause, called “cause marketing,” can take different forms. Cause marketing usually, but not always, describes a situation in which a corporation, or even a small company, partners with a nonprofit entity in the name of a cause, and adopts marketing strategies to raise awareness or funds for the nonprofit. While this is a relatively new approach to marketing IT hardware asset management, it seems to have staying power, and with good reason. Companies who partner with a cause have an opportunity to let their client base see their social connection to the community, hopefully resulting in increased business. The nonprofit organization or cause benefits from added exposure, increased awareness of their cause, and hopefully, a spike in monetary donation. Yoplait Yogurt’s Save Lids to Save Lives promotion is one of the best known and most successful of this type of cause marketing campaign, which so far has raised over $26 million, at ten cents per lid sent in by consumers.

Another type of cause marketing is when a nonprofit organization seeks to increase awareness or fundraising through its own in-house direct efforts. This type of cause funding can be seen on crowd-funding platforms such as GoFundMe or Kickstarter.

Still another type of cause marketing is when a nonprofit or project receives endorsements from celebrities, or when celebrities such as actors, athletes or musicians themselves organize benefit functions, with the goal of giving proceeds to a worthy cause. An early example of this is the Concert for New York City, which took place at Madison Square Garden on October 20, 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks and featured over 60 well-known speakers and musical acts. The benefit was organized by Paul McCartney, and response to the live broadcast was swift and overwhelmingly positive, generating over $35 million in contributions for first responders, their families, and families of victims.

The fact that cause marketing works so well can largely be attributed to modern technology. From old-school forms of communication, such as television and radio to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pintrest, which are everywhere in a society full of smart phones, laptops and tablets, information of all kinds is a touch away, 24 hours a day. Word of mouth has always been the best and most effective form of advertising, but now, companies don’t have to depend on live visitors to their businesses. With goods and services available online all the time, feedback is almost instant, and almost constant.

The constant stream of information and of feedback that it generates means that a business wading into cause marketing needs to do two things to make it pay: firstly, they need to choose that cause with care. The partnership between Nike and the Lance Armstrong Foundation (now the Livestrong Foundation), in which over 80 million LIVE STRONG bracelets were sold at one dollar apiece to raise funds for the support of cancer patients, took a hit after Armstrong’s doping scandal broke. A story aired on CNN reported that supporters who had bought bracelets were eradicating the letter V in “LIVE,” to make the bracelets read, “LIE STRONG.” The foundation changed its name, but not its message or goals, and Nike parted ways with the foundation when its contract ended. This is an example of a partnership that worked out really badly.

The second thing that a business exploring cause marketing needs to do is to be creative in their approach.

Some different and very successful approaches include giving employees (or even customers) the opportunity to choose a “torture” method for a company’s CEO, tying the fundraiser to a door-to-door event such as Trick or Treating, setting up a raffle in reverse, in which sponsors receive tickets and sell them back to keep from having to do something mortifying in public, having someone “arrested” until a certain amount is raised in donations as bail, setting up chain videos on social media, and more. A quick internet search can certainly help in the quest for a creative, attention-grabbing campaign.

The wide variety of technology and communication platforms available today virtually ensures that cause marketing will only become more popular and widely used, despite its potential pitfalls.