Cause marketing spending continues to rise as more and more brands recognize that consumers want to support a company that does good. That’s a strong phrase and one that’s left to interpretation.
I love cause marketing and I love helping my clients find the right cause for their brand. What I don’t love is a common phrase I hear, “We want to support the right cause. But it can’t be too depressing…too heavy.”
This bothers me on many levels, and reminds me of a great blog post I read on The Huffington Post written by Joe Waters of Selfishgiving.com. Joe offers some well-aimed advice on how to choose the right cause. His point to avoid being too matchy-matchy in choosing a cause is refreshing.
And while I do think the cause should align with the brand persona and the core values of the organization, there are two things I’d like brands to also consider:
1. Look Within: The key to an effective cause program is authenticity. Sure, being authentic to the brand is important, but being authentic to the culture of the organization – which is made up of its employees – should also weigh into the decision-making process. Especially if you’re hoping this will resonate with customers AND engage employees. Prior to latching onto a cause, it’s good form to find out what your employees care about; what they want to champion and what they will rally around.
2. Don’t Shy Away from “Unpopular” Causes: Part of the definition of authentic is realistic. And the truth is that heavy and depressing things happen. It’s impossible to know exactly what life circumstances every one of your customers has experienced. But, there are a whole slew of people who would champion a brand that is championing an unpopular or heavy cause, because ultimately it’s about doing good. If that cause also happens to hold meaning with the organization’s employees, all the better.
Other CSR and cause research shows that while consumers are willing to support brands that fight for a cause, they also find it hard to understand or – in some cases – believe what the organization is doing. If more brands follow the tenets above, and the advice of Joe Waters, that tide just might change.