Skip to main content

Cause Marketing Becomes ‘The Man’

Tuesday found me in a meeting with a new client. We were talking about cause marketing and I asked if they would like to see any data or research on the value of cause marketing in your marketing mix. I keep a digital portfolio of such information at the ready.

“For who?” he asked. “For your sales group or your management team,” I said.

“Nope,” he replied. “We don’t need it.”

Now my client is a sophisticated marketer with gray at his temples and decades of experience at strategic and tactical marketing.

For my part, I’ve been involved with cause marketing to some degree or another for coming up on 20 years now but on Tuesday I realized for the first time that cause marketing has reached its tipping point. Cause marketing has become ‘the man.’

I use the catchphrase ‘tipping point’ deliberately, if reluctantly. Before Malcolm Gladwell popularized it, it was pretty much reserved for use by epidemiologists to describe the point at which a viral outbreak becomes an epidemic.

Still, that’s where we are with cause marketing. Cause marketing is poised to become an epidemic.

By now everyone understand the practice even if they don’t know always know the vocabulary of it. Just as a whole generation of kids has grown up having never used a rotary phone, the rising generation has never known a time when their cartons of Yoplait didn’t sport a pink ribbon once a year.

Decision-makers don’t need to see the justification for cause marketing. There are long stretches of every year when cause marketing can be spotted on every fricken can of Coke, and every box of Tide, for cryin’ out loud. Each May-June 20-something million paper balloons hang in 4,000 Wal-Mart coast to coast.

The logic leads itself. If cause marketing’s good enough for marketers like Coke and Proctor and Gamble, and operators like General Mills and Wal-Mart, it’s probably good enough for your consumer-facing good or service.

I greet all this with sense of wonder and appreciation, along with some dismay at how long it took to get to this point.

Can cause marketing still grow?

Yup. Just as an epidemic can grow until everyone is infected, so too can cause marketing.

For a very long time cause marketing has represented about 9-11 percent of sponsorship. Sponsorship is dominated televised sports like the World Cup, The Olympics, the NFL, MLB, the NBA and NHL, and I’ve long assumed that if cause marketing wanted to really compete with sports sponsorship it needed to get serious about television. (In some quarters it has.)

But I may be wrong. It could be that cause marketing will grow so ubiquitous, taking place in so many places and with so many sponsors and causes, that it will grow past sports sponsorship. I’ve long predicted this day because while sports offers fanaticism, it doesn’t offer genuine emotional depth. Cause marketing offers depth of emotion in spades.

And on that day that cause marketing surpasses sports sponsorship in dollars spent it will not only be the man, it will be ‘the woman,’ too.

Comments

Derek said…
I think that along with the growth of cause marketing, we're also seeing groups of consumers that see it as simply marketing, so I believe that the more savvy marketers will go the extra mile in order to really tell the story - otherwise, if every yogurt is adorned with a pink ribbon, how does one brand stand out?

Thanks!
Hi Derke:

Thanks for your thoughts.

You describe a kind of arms race in which marketers step up the narrative in order to really stand out from competitors.

I'm inclined to agree. But I think there's something else here at play and that is the increasing expectation of cause marketing by consumers.

If yours is a consumer market, it may one day be difficult to sell your product or service without a cause marketing element. The cause marketing won't help you stand out so much as it will be a kind of built-in cost to enter the consumer's consciousness.

Again, thanks.


Warm regards,
Paul

Popular posts from this blog

Three Ways to Be Charitable

I’ve spent a big chunk of my career working with or for charities. Many of my dearest and ablest friends are in the charity ‘space.’ And the creativity and problem-solving coming out of the nonprofit sector has never been greater.  Although I’ve had numerous nonprofit clients over the last decade or so, I haven’t worked in a charity for about 12 years now, which gives me a certain distance. Distance lends perspective and consequently, I get a lot of people asking me which charities I recommend for donations of money or time. My usual answer is, “it depends.” “On what?” they respond. “On what you want from your charitable activities,” I reply. It sounds like a weaselly consultant kind of an answer, but bear with me for a moment. The English word charity comes from the Latin word caritas and means “from the heart,” implying a voluntary act. Caritas is the same root word for cherish. The Jews come at charity from a different direction. The Hebrew word that is usually rendered as charity is t…

Top Eight Cause-Related Marketing Campaigns of 2007

Yeah, You Read it Right. It's a Top 8 List.

More cause-related marketing campaigns are unveiled every day across the world than I review in a year at the cause-related marketing blog. And, frankly, I don’t see very many campaigns from outside North America. So I won’t pretend that my annual list of the top cause-related marketing campaigns is exhaustive.

But, like any other self-respecting blogger, I won’t let my superficial purview stop me from drawing my own tortured conclusions!

So… cue the drumroll (and the dismissive snickers)… without further ado, here is my list of the eight best cause-related marketing campaigns of 2007.

My list of the worst cause-related marketing campaigns of 2007 follows on Thursday.


Chilis and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
I was delighted by the scope of Chilis’ campaign for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. As you walked in you saw the servers adorned in black co-branded shirts. Other elements included message points on the Chilis beverage coas…

Five Steps To Nurture a 30-Year Cause Marketing Relationship

Last Monday, July 22, 2013, March of Dimes released the annual results of its campaign with Kmart... now in its thirtieth year... and thereby begged the question, what does it takes to have a multi-decade cause marketing relationship between a cause and a sponsor?

In the most recent year, Kmart,the discount retailer, donated $7.4 million to the March of Dimes, bringing the 30-year total to nearly $114 million. March of Dimes works to improve the health of mothers and babies.

Too many cause marketing relationships, in my estimation, resemble speed-dating more than long-term marriage. There can be good reasons for short-term cause marketing relationships. But most causes and sponsors benefit more from long-term marriages than short-term hookups, the main benefit being continuity. Cause marketing trades on the trust that people, usually consumers, put in the cause and the sponsor. The longer the relationship lasts the more trust is evidenced.

There's also a sponsor finding cost that…