Q&A with Meg Morgan, CSR specialist

Q: How can cause-related marketing help my brand?

A: Because it’s not just for Christmas.

As sure as Boxing Day follows Christmas Day, so guilt follows gorging. To help us counter concerns about excess, many brands forge links with charities. We’re probably more aware of it in the season of ‘goodwill,’ but cause-related marketing has been around for a while.  So, why do some brands make it work and others fall at the first hurdle?

What is cause-related marketing?

It involves the cooperative efforts of a ‘for profit’ business and a ‘non-profit organisation’ for mutual benefit. High-profile examples include the Pampers and Unicef ‘1 pack = 1 vaccine’ partnership, protecting children and mothers from maternal and newborn tetanus, as well as the ‘Here’s To Our Soldiers’ campaign, the collaboration between Hovis and the Royal British Legion.

How can we choose the right partnership?

To be successful, a cause partnership must be relevant, not only to the audience but also to the company’s core business, values, personality, products and history.  In our experience, the most successful corporate giving or foundation programmes have common elements. They

  • Focus on a cause with authentic connection to the company’s brand values
  • Focus on one, easy-to-understand and articulate cause
  • Create opportunities for employee engagement and passion
  • Create relevancy to company’s products, services, expertise or history
  • Focus on a cause that resonates with customers and other key audiences
  • Align with strategic non-profit partners to maximise impact
  • Create crystal-clear grant criteria
  • Brand the programme to fuel understanding and interest
  • Build strong governance and oversight
  • Create measurable goals for the programme and demand accountability

Not just for Christmas

A cause partnership shouldn’t just be for Christmas. In fact, building a campaign based solely on a limited ‘on pack’ promotion has its issues.  Yes, it can influence purchasing decisions (if all other factors are equal), but consumers must be given more credit.  It’s not just the ‘shelf life’ of a product that needs to be considered but the sincerity of partnership that will be questioned.  How much difference will the brand make to the cause? What benefit will the cause really gain from time-restricted exposure? What is the longevity of the programme? 

Is cause the only option?

Cause-marketing isn’t the only option for a brand.  The most trusted and understood brands have a more structured and robust corporate responsibility programme in place. They engage their workforce, and even more importantly they integrate sustainable changes into their business.  For a cause-marketing programme to have real impact, it needs to be backed by a long-term, socially-responsible programme – one that builds in both internal and external targets to improve the environment or society which is affected.