The Triple Win of Cause Marketing

By Michael Guld

“We know we can do well by doing good,” said Louis Gerstner, Jr. while Chairman of American Express Travel Services, the company widely credited with coining (and trademarking) the term “cause related marketing” in 1983. That year, American Express set out to raise funds and awareness for the Statue of Liberty Restoration Project, while at the same time increasing new applications and usage of their card; goals not previously thought of as compatible. At the end of a three-month $4 million dollar cause-related marketing campaign, the Restoration project had received an additional $1.7 million, new card applications were up 45 percent and usage of the American Express Card had increased by 45 percent over the previous year … a major win for all parties.

Over the last 25 years, more and more companies have realized that, like American Express, they don’t have to choose between being “missionary” or “mercenary,” and cause marketing has become over a billion dollar industry. The good news is any business can employ simple marketing principles intersecting corporate business goals and objectives with the needs of society and achieve extraordinary benefits for all parties.

As with most opportunities in life, one often asks the question, “What’s in it for me?”  Therefore, in order to ensure cause marketing is maximally successful, non-profits, for-profits and individuals each have to win – a triple win meaning the benefits of each one’s involvement exceeds their investment of time, money and energy.

One example of the triple win would be the aftermarket automotive service provider that hosts community blood drives and, as a show of appreciation, rewards each donor with a certificate for a free oil change.  Donors win by receiving a $30 value back for doing a good deed; the blood service wins by the additional promotional exposure and increased donations of blood; the automotive service provider wins by expanding their potential customer base at a hard cost of only $15 per person. If a customer has a positive experience, they could potentially become a customer for life.

Here is a breakdown of the benefits a triple win can offer.

1) The non-profit

  • Garners additional support in time, resources and expertise.

  • Gets access to a company’s customers, employees and suppliers.

  • Obtains leverage for additional marketing and PR opportunities to promote their cause (awareness).

  • Increased involvement or donations (the bottom line).

2) The for-profit

  • Viewed as a socially responsible company.

  • Customers/clients/public feels good about (elevated public perception).

  • Creates brand differentiation in an increasing crowded and changing marketplace

  • Enhanced marketing and PR opportunities

  • Employees and potential recruits feel good about you

  • Increased business (the bottom line)

3) The individual

  • Exposed to a new opportunity to make a difference.

  • Feels good about making a difference.

  • Is viewed by others as one who makes a difference.

  • May receive value back as a part supporting or making a contribution to the cause

Consider the triple win in a bank’s campaign featuring a picture of a woman with the headline, “I opened a checking account and helped find a cure.” For every new checking account opened or Visa Check card issued, the bank would donate $100 in the customer’s name to the charity of his or her choice. Bank customers feel good about making a difference, the bank builds their reputation as a good corporate citizen and the non-profits receive additional funding they otherwise would not have had.  

Some highly committed companies promote that they donate a percentage of their profits to local causes, while others create specific promotions around a cause related to their industry. Real examples include a shoe retailer that encourages the donation of used shoes for the needy, partnering with a local television station to create added exposure for the campaign. Another example is a dry cleaner that encourages customers (and future customers) to drop off used coats over the holidays, which they will clean and then donate to the Salvation Army.   In the automotive world, a car dealership promoted a donation to the local children’s hospital for every test drive.

Any business in any industry of any size should consider what contribution they can offer to make a difference. While you may not believe your company is large enough or has the funds to invest in cause marketing, your contribution does not always have to be in the form of dollars; it may be your time, expertise or the resources of your staff, customers or suppliers. Select a non-profit organization or cause that you (and your organization) are most passionate about. Is it feeding hungry children, finding homes for abandoned animals, caring for the elderly, or building homes for the homeless that could benefit from your company’s involvement?

Just as businesses have specific goals, the same should be true in cause marketing. What is the targeted outcome? Is it to raise a designated number of pounds of food or a targeted goal for blood donations, and by when? The biggest impact will be made with a long-term commitment. After a cause is chosen, a campaign theme developed and that theme is reproduced over and over, the frequency and consistency will provide for greater exposure and greater results year after year. To maximize the marketing component of cause marketing, choose strategic promotional partners (inside and outside the media) where you can leverage your investment of time and dollars to achieve greater results.

The more genuine and more authentic a company is, the more successful they will be. If cause marketing is part of a well-conceived and well-executed strategy it will be perceived the way it was intended, as opposed to an orchestrated PR campaign crafted only to improve an image in the marketplace.

Cause marketing is all about promoting the good deeds and contributions of good companies to help good causes. Some individuals and companies would prefer to make anonymous contributions without receiving the credit, however, for those that want to elevate their standing in the marketplace and in their community, promoting a contribution is not only good for their business, it can be very good for the cause.

Read other articles and learn more about Michael Guld.

[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis. Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and requirements.]

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