You no longer have to choose between saving the world and saving your business: with cause-based marketing, you get to do both!
Cause-based marketing also called cause marketing, is a form of marketing that promotes a social cause rather than a product or service.
WordStream defines cause marketing as a process of marketing a specific idea, cause, or goal, rather than a particular business, product, or service.
While some for-profit companies can base their entire marketing strategy on cause-based marketing, for others, it’s a means of appealing to an ever-increasing “conscious consumer” market.
For instance, companies like TOMS Shoes‘ buy-one-give-one policy are excellent examples of a company built entirely on cause marketing. Such companies are said to be ethical.
But suppose a company releases a new product which it says is aimed at tackling a social issue, like climate change, plastic waste pollution, then, the company is said to be engaging in cause-based marketing.
Look at the examples below:
On the world International Women’s Day, Apple released a video promoting women empowerment. The video’s goal was not to promote a specific Apple product but to celebrate women breaking the proverbial glass ceiling. But after watching the video, you’ll understand why it’s a brilliant example of cause-based marketing.
Apple’s Behind The Mac Ad – International Women’s Day
Tom’s Shoes is a for-profit company (social enterprise) which donates a shoe to a developing country, for every shoe, it’s customers purchase. Here’s an example of a company whose brand is based on effective marketing.
Tom’s One For Another Ad
Worthy of Note
When most people speak about cause-based marketing, they usually explain it in ‘textbook terms’, neglecting that in the real world, how these marketing tools are used is a bit more diverse than the textbooks teach.
Hence, if you are looking for a textbook definition and explanation of cause-based marketing, then this is the wrong article to read. But if you are looking for the real world, cutting edge explanation and implementation of cause-based marketing, then read on.
Why Caused-Based Marketing?
Marketing based on a cause is a way of winning the hearts of those who believe in that cause, in the hope that some of them will eventually become your customers.
Cause-based marketing is all about appealing to the emotions of the consumer. It’s not about the features of the product but the ideas (causes) the product represents.
When running a cause-based marketing ad campaign, if you talk about your product’s features or its benefits to the user, you’ve missed the whole goal of cause-based marketing.
Nike is another example of a company that relies heavily on cause-based marketing to promote its brand and products.
People love Nike, not because they produce the best shoes (which is debatable), but the brand represents the ideas.
Here’s a typical example of a Nike Ad:
The video above speaks nothing of Nike shoes; it doesn’t talk about the suspension or the shoe’s modern technology. But it promotes the idea of being a “dreamer”.
So, by attaching their brand with the idea of “not changing your dream”, whenever you wear a Nike shoe, they are indirectly telling you, “if you have a dream, trust Nike to help you achieve it”.
This is a combination of top art and science.
The video is designed to invoke a “feel good” feeling in the person watching it. Now, because this feeling is triggered by watching a Nike commercial, your mind automatically associates Nike with that feeling.
Remember, cause-based marketing is about promoting an idea or cause and not a product or service.
Just because I love Nike, here’s another ad from Nike promoting social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
How To Run A Cause-Based Marketing Campaign
1. Identify Your Cause
What cause do you want to champion? What idea(s) do you want to propagate.
The beauty of it is, your cause doesn’t need to be related to your product or industry; it just has to be something that people can connect with on a personal level.
Women are not the only ones who use Macs, but Apple made its commercial based on International Women’s Day. Tom’s Shoes are not just for students, but their cause is to donate shoes to students in developing countries.
So when deciding on a cause to champion, don’t limit yourself. But don’t also forget that it should be a worthy cause so that people can rally around it and those good feelings will be affiliated to your brand.
That is the power of cause-based marketing!
2. Choose Your Champion(s) Wisely
Nike (I know, again), once run an ad promoting the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The person they chose to champion the campaign was a deeply polarizing figure named Colin Kaepernick.
Colin is an American football player sacked by his club to kneel in protest whenever the American anthem is played during a match.
This act of defiance drew massive criticism from all levels of American society (even President Trump criticized him). However, it also drew enormous support from other black players and the black community.
When Nike used him as the champion for its ad campaign, the results were not welcoming.
In protest of the ad, people showed videos of themselves burning their Nike shoes and clothes. There was a massive backlash from all angles over the ad.
However, Nike also saw an enormous spike in purchasing its products from the black community leading to massive sales.
While many will argue about the ad’s positive and negative impact, one can’t deny that the ad was a massive PR success for the company.
To the curious ones, here’s the ad:
This lets you know that whom you choose to champion your cause is equally as crucial as what cause you choose to promote. So select your champion wisely.
3. Long term or short term?
You need to decide if the cause you are promoting will be for the long term or short term. Is it something you want to tie your brand to for the foreseeable future, or it’s just a “one-time thing”.
This will help you determine how far to go with each campaign and how you align your brand message to the cause you promote.
4. What’s The Feeling?
When deciding how your ads should be, the most critical question to ask is what types of feelings you want the ad to evoke in the person watching it.
This is because whatever feeling the ad evokes will be associated with your brand. Your cause-based marketing campaigns must evoke good feelings in the consumer.
5. Hit The Bull’s Eye
For your cause-based ad campaign to get traction and make the maximum impact, you need to reach out to the audience who’s cause you are promoting.
In promoting an ad about Women’s health, you don’t target men in your ad campaigns, targeting only women.
This way, the ad will spread more organically as the chances of it reaching the right people will be hugely increased.
Based on your budget, you can run the ads on all social platforms, including YouTube. But if you have a small account, focus on media where your target audience is most active.
I’ll like to conclude with two made-up examples of how you can use cause-based marketing to increase sales in a post-COVID-19 era (this doesn’t apply to only COVID-19 though).
Assuming you are a retail or eCommerce company seeking to drive sales, one of the significant challenges people will face in the post-COVID economy is hunger.
You can target a deprived community in your country and decide to provide them with a meal a day. Then you run an ad campaign saying for every product purchased from your shop worth $XXX, the customer will be sponsoring a dinner to a child in that community.
Whenever a customer makes a purchase worth that amount, the customer gets a “Thank You” card at checkout (this is to make the customer feel good about giving to the needy).
This example uses the template, “for every X, we do Y”. So every condition that is met by the customer, the company will do something to promote its cause.
This will help build goodwill between you and your customers as well as grow sales.
This example will work for any and every industry. Health workers have become the “Avengers” of Earth against COVID-19. They are being celebrated in every country which has been hit by the virus.
As a business, you can run an ad celebrating health workers, focusing on the sacrifices they have had to make in other to fight the virus.
Such a campaign is bound to go viral as people will naturally share the ad on all social media platform.
This will also create a feeling of heroism towards the health workers, which will subconsciously be attributed to your brand.
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