At my company, we believe in the power of interconnected conversations and the potential of the Internet to encourage them. Any brand that uses Social Media is tapping into that wellspring of promotion, but this is only half of the capability of Web 2.0/4.0 The other comes from collaboration, such as with cross-promoted cause marketing.
Being an activist and, I’m told, a rather ‘eccentric philanthropist,’ I’m always eager to promote cause-marketing initiatives. However, brands need to remember that we, as a people, aren’t stupid. We can sniff out insincere campaigning and green washing. Therefore, if you are a brand or marketing person thinking of helping a brand here are some Basics of Cause Marketing for Brand/Marketing Firms:
1. Again, please don’t lie. Don’t be insincere. Remember, we as a “People” aren’t stupid or insensitive and can sniff out nonsense in moments.
2. Choose a Cause/Non-Profit that has valid non-profit status (501(c)3) and no skeletons in the closet.
3. Make sure this initiative connects back to your brand and strengthens its message.
4. Contact the non-profit and make sure they are aware of your donation/campaign. Get in writing their permission.
5. Absolutely make sure you have sign-offs from your colleagues or board before you make any promises to the Non-Profit. Get in writing their permission.
6. Make sure in your letter to the Non-Profit that there is a cancellation clause in case any of the aforementioned skeletons come out of the aforementioned closet. Be prepared to cancel.
7. Before you publicly announce this initiative, get permission to first tell your internal team. This will help with internal pride and internal self-awareness, invaluable tools as you move this project forward.
8. Create a rollout plan either with your PR firm or Social Media team.
9. Have fun. Be proud. You are both helping each other: with the cause and the brand. And, hopefully, pleasing customers because of the connection and sincere conversation.
10. Help others learn from your best practices, and also your worst practices. My hope is our collective goals are to grow transparent and collaborative community(ies).
• Boy Meets Girl – Stacy Igel’s connection to YSC – Young Survival Coalition makes sense. She has created a chic fashion brand for young people and as a person she sincerely cares about causes, and sadly has recently lost a very young friend to this dreadful illness.
• Ben and Jerry’s – Ben and Jerry’s has had a pronounced history of joining their brand with social justice, including gay rights. They partnered with Freedom to Marry by temporarily changing their “Chubby Hubby” flavor to “Hubby Hubby.” Together, they encouraged conversation and raised money for a very worthwhile cause, without altering the voice of their brand.
• Sweethearts – Sweethearts partnered with the Operation USO Care Package program, but instead of selling their usual hearts of tidings of romantic love, they were red, white, and blue hearts expressing gratitude to American soldiers. It was still a brand encouraging affection with candy, only it was a different kind of affection and a different style of candy.
I continue to thrive on learning more about cause marketing from my own endeavors, but also learning from other people’s experiences and trepidations about it. Nothing helps along comprehension quite like the interconnected conversations we are seeing with Social Media.
Be well, give back and receive with gratitude.