How cause marketing can help your brand

Cause marketing has been on an upward trend for the past decade as consumers continue to align their spending with their personal values.

A Nielsen global survey in 2015 found that two-thirds of consumers are willing to pay more for products from companies that show a commitment to having a positive impact on society and the environment. The number is even higher for millenials at 73%.

In the 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study, 87% of consumers said they would purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about. It can also affect recruitment of the next generation of workers, as a poll in Fortune found that two-thirds of people between the ages of 18 and 34 were at least somewhat more likely to want to work for a company that gave to charity than one did that not.

What is cause marketing?

Cause marketing is when a for-profit business aligns itself with a nonprofit organization and promises to donate a set amount of dollars, percentage of profit, or hours of volunteer time. It is usually considered a win-win situation where the business gains goodwill from publicity and the nonprofit gains donations.

It can be very successful for small businesses or franchises with limited marketing budgets to use cause marketing as a cost-effective way to do good and gain positive exposure in their local community.

Franchise cause marketing examples

The teams at Goldfish Swim School offer free water safety courses to their local elementary schools and other child organizations. Just like firefighters spread the word about fire safety at home, in this way Goldfish Swim School helps all kids learn about how to be safe around water. Partnerships with nonprofits like the National Drowning Prevention Alliance also support their message of water safety.

Culver’s Thank You Farmers project gives to agricultural education and the National FFA Organization to support the future generation’s food chain. Culver’s also participates in “Share Nights” where a franchisee can donate a percentage of a night’s profits to a local organization in need. Kids sporting clubs, scouting, family fundraisers, parent-teacher organizations, and animal causes have all benefited from Share Night events.

Toppers Pizza hosts hunger-relief events where donations are made to local food pantries. Toppers has donated more than 1 million meals since the program began in 2011.

U.S. Cellular champions STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education by working with local Boys and Girls Clubs of America near its store locations through a national partnership, an associate matching program, and volunteering.

3 cause marketing tips

  1. Choose a cause that is aligned with your company. Notice the company-charity examples above make sense to be paired together: swim lessons and water safety, food and farming, pizza and hunger, cell phones and tech education. Although your CEO may have a passion for animal welfare, if your company is marketing dance lessons it’s probably not the right fit.
  2. Don’t be overly promotional. You should always be authentic and transparent with your charity efforts. Make sure that you are making a meaningful contribution to the cause and not overstating the value of your efforts.
  3. Make sure it translates at the local level. While your cause marketing has a national campaign attached, make sure it allows your network of franchisees/stores to take action locally within their neighborhoods. If your contributions cannot be allocated to a local club, school, food pantry, or nonprofit organization, it will be hard to get storeowners to emotionally connect with their customers.

Karen M. Wenning serves in marketing and sales for Madison-based printer and marketing services provider Suttle-Straus.

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