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Standing Out from Other Cause Marketing

Back in the day, one of the things I put in proposals to potential sponsors was that cause marketing helped you stand out from competitors. Nowadays, in certain competitive industries like consumer packaged goods (CPG) one way to emerge from the clutter is to NOT do cause marketing. That is to say, cause marketing has become such a pervasive way of doing business that consumers expect it. So if you don't do cause marketing in competitive sectors like CPG, it becomes very noticeable, and not in a good way.

So corporate marketers might rightly ask, as one did Tuesday night, “with so many of my competitors doing cause marketing, how can I make my brands emerge from the clutter?”

Three quick thoughts:
  1. Do it right. There’s still much more bad cause marketing than good. Either it’s overly complicated, not very transparent, the match with the cause(s) is hard to fathom, the donation amount is wrong, the campaign is activated inadequately, the MacGuffin is missing, etc. The first thing to do is to really figure out the campaign and polish it to a shine.
  2. Embed it into the product and the strategy. Cause marketing is a part of every can of Campbell’s soup, every box of Ziploc plastic storage bags, every Diet Coke. Cause marketing used to be a 4-week promotion for CPG companies like General Mills and Coca-Cola, now it’s their year-round strategy.
  3. Make transparency and gratitude part of the appeal. As I told that corporate marketer Tuesday night, almost no one closes the loop of their cause marketing story. Very few cause marketing campaigns say how the money was used or what was accomplished with it. And scarcely anyone ever thanks participants and constituents. But doing so is a legitimate touchpoint and a welcome message. Even in the cases of cause marketing that runs year-round, people still want to know that good has been done and that you appreciate their support. In such cases reporting back and offering thanks becomes an annual inflection point for the campaign.

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