We live in a time of advertising disruption with ad free digital destinations, ad blocking and banner advertising blindness. In addition, traditional advertising platforms are utilized but exceptional breakout creative execution is a must in order for messaging to stand out. Consequently, marketers are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to influence the opinions and buying habits of their customers.
Now, cause marketing is surely not new and some may even say it is not innovative. However, in this age of advertising restriction and advertising overload, it is one of the most valuable and effective reputation enhancement tools a marketer could employ today.
Many outstanding cause marketing campaigns have enhanced the reputation of major brands by connecting and engaging the brand with their constituents (customers, employees, suppliers and influencers). In addition, by developing and executing well on a memorable cause marketing campaign, these same brands have been able to capture market share as they make a statement and make a difference in the lives of many.
One has only to review the memorable campaigns of past to see that cause marketing can be a reputation game changer. Just think back to the power of the Johnson and Johnson /Future of Nursing campaign, the American Express/ Statue of Liberty Restoration campaign, the Yoplait/Save Lids to Save Lives campaign or the Whirlpool/ Habitat for Humanity campaign. These campaigns changed lives and strengthened brand reputations. Perhaps, it is time for great brands to place cause marketing at the top of the marketing priority list.
If great brands are to venture into the cause marketing arena, they must not do so in haste. It cannot be a spur of the moment decision. Marketers must conduct in depth research to determine what cause is the best fit with the brand in question, what cause reinforces the core values of the corporation and what cause resonates most with the target audience of the specific brand.
A well thought out, far reaching, sustainable campaign must be carefully created and carefully executed in order for the impact to be meaningful. In addition, it is important that marketers understand that an effective cause marketing campaign is not a campaign that lasts a month. In order to reap the reputation enhancement benefits of a campaign, the effort must be sustained for a much longer period of time.
Marketers must clearly define the cause and the partnership, must keep the messaging as simple as possible, must encourage the audience to participate by simple actions and must tell a story that can emotionally touch every constituent. Effective campaigns move audiences to contribute to the cause, to select the specific brand over the competition, to engender positive feelings about the brand in the minds of all constituents. In short, effective cause marketing campaigns can and will reinforce the authenticity of the brand and drive business.
Marketers who align their brand with a cause may not be employing the newest marketing tool but they may definitely be employing the most effective.
Janet Robinson is the former CEO of The New York Times Company; Chairwoman of the Presidential Board of Trustees of Salve Regina University and a trustee of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.