Cause marketing often gets a bad reputation. Some people see it as an empty association where only dollars are exchanged, others, as shallow support with no real investment. Cause marketing gets its fifteen minutes of fame very easily with commercials and the like, but it lacks follow through, consistency and measurable foot traffic sales. How do we change that perception? By changing the way we form our association with cause marketing. Measurable foot traffic sales are one way to counter this negative perspective. Companies are constantly caught up in the ‘like this or send that and we’ll donate x amount of funds to blank’ mode. In other words they spend more time measuring and emphasizing the outcomes of ’likes’ and items received, and not enough on measuring what really counts. Facebook ‘like’ promotions typically fall into this category. Joe Waters reports that in November Kraft initiated a “Fight Hunger” Facebook page
. Liking the page was a meal donation equivalent with more meals donated through a football and food-related trivia question game. Although it generated 25 million meals for food banks across America, it is another example of how Facebook likes do not equal long-term engagement. Let’s be real here, there was no follow-up with those contributors and they most likely haven’t visited that page since. They aren’t contributing any money to the cause, because they already contributed and it didn’t cost them anything. On the flip side you have Ikea and their Save the Children event, also mentioned in Waters’ article. Ikea hosted a “Bring Your Own Friends” event with in-store deals and giveaways. On the side, inviting friends on Facebook triggered the donation whether those friends showed up or not. The difference between the two? Ikea’s actually generated foot traffic, and placed the focus on the deals and the giveaways. Donations to the charity were secondary, but by no means diminished their cause marketing efforts.
In addition to generating foot traffic, Paul Jones shares three more ways that cause marketing can rebrand itself positively
. The first is activating cause marketing on packaging. Coca-Cola made the mistake of making their cans white to support their ‘save the polar bears’ cause, and in doing so ruined their customers’ product association. Traditionally, a red can equals regular coke and a white can equals diet. Customers mistook the white cans for diet and complained. As Jones shares, brands could benefit hugely from showcasing their efforts on packaging. Right now they just look lazy and like they neglected to complete the product tie-in. His second point is employees forming deeper connections with the cause. Basically this points to one key phrase: get involved. Nothing shows more solid support and commitment than getting involved and the results are much more mutually beneficial for both cause and employees. Last is keeping consumers in the loop. They want to know they made a good choice, they want to know how it turned out, and they want acknowledgment. As of right now, companies rarely disclose reports about how their efforts went to consumers and they rarely say thanks. They are missing out on a big opportunity, because consumers are more likely to continue supporting a company that does those things on a regular basis. More long-term support and engagement with a company are the outcomes here. Overall, companies are missing some crucial elements to their cause marketing campaigns. They are not taking the opportunity to generate foot traffic, and they are not following through by activating cause marketing on their packaging and actively supporting the cause through volunteering. They are not being consistent by making consumers aware of results, acknowledging their efforts and giving them a reason to participate in the future and stick around as long-term customers. Changing these things could revamp their own images. In revamping their own images and their association with cause marketing, cause marketing will be redeemed and rebranded. Sounds like a win-win for everyone.