In a down economy everyone has to make hard choices about how and where to spend their money. Recent studies show that a surprising priority for many is charitable giving. Americans love to give.
Knowing that people want to support charitable causes, marketers can help them by aligning themselves with charities that match up with values important to their customers and are also true and authentic to their brands.
Being successful with cause marketing today means doing more than ever. Setting up your charitable activity for success takes more than putting a logo on your packaging and print ads. More than placing banners and pop-up booths at the dozens of run-walk events the charity may produce in key markets. More than inviting key retail clients to participate with ribbon cutting, medal awarding, check giving, etc. More, even, than sampling on event day. Today’s cause-marketing campaign will be truly successful if marketers plan to engage participants through social media and mobile campaigns.
The strategy has mutual benefits: your community members become your best brand evangelists as they help drive awareness and donations to important causes. That’s because digital tools create action. According to Walden University’s “2011 Social Change Impact Report,” nine out of ten adults say that when it comes to supporting causes, digital technology can help move interest into action faster than any other tactic.
Doing It Right
It’s important to make sure that you give your community many different ways to access your initiative. So, brands must be where consumers are -- on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Foursquare, and, most importantly, accessible on mobile devices. If your fan pages are linking to a dedicated microsite set up for the cause-marketing campaign, make sure that the site is optimized for mobile devices. If your fans are ready to give, sign up, share a story or vote, they will expect to be able to do it on their cell phones and tablets.
The holidays, with giving on everyone’s mind, are a perfect time for these campaigns.
Right now, Purina pet food has multiple campaigns running that tie social media to charitable giving. Earlier this month, Purina ONE cat food launched a mobile campaign utilizing action codes to support various animal shelters. The codes have been placed on Purina ONE cat food packaging. For each action code scanned, Purina plans to donate $1 to the shelters. The donation will be capped at $30,000. Purina Dog Chow has also launched a Facebook campaign that ties charitable giving to the release of the upcoming movie, “The Adventures of Tintin.” For each Facebook “like” on the Purina Dog Chow page, the brand will donate $1, with a donation total of $150,000 that will be split equally among three dog-centric organizations.
Understanding a customer’s digital behavior should help direct the cause-marketing strategy. Last spring, Radio Shack announced that Foursquare users were the brand’s best customers, spending 3.5 times more than average. Since then, the company has used the location-based network to drive charitable giving. This holiday season, Radio Shack is running what it calls the “So Right” holiday promotion to benefit Livestrong. Livestrong founder Lance Armstrong is the company spokesperson. There’s a specially branded holiday badge and, for each badge earned when people check into designated holiday hot spots around the country (think the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center), the company will donate $1.
Thanking fans who support the brand and the cause by offering them something exclusive is always a smart strategy. People love to give, but also to receive, just a little bit, too. This holiday, Duracell batteries teamed up with recording artist Chris Daughtry for a campaign called the “Holiday Insurance Program,” a cute gimmicky way to remind parents to make sure to get those batteries before the kids tear open that gift wrap and want to play with their toys immediately. The charity connection the brand chose makes perfect sense: it partnered with the Toy Industry Foundation to donate toys and 30,000 batteries to needy children. What’s particularly cool about this promotion was that Daughtry performed a concert on Facebook, exclusive for the brand’s 720,000 fans.
I think that there is room for more innovation. Mobile apps aren’t that widely used and offer great potential. Macy’s has developed one for its “A Million Reasons to Believe” holiday campaign. The company has committed to donating $1 million to the Make A Wish Foundation for every letter to Santa it collects. The app is a nice add-on to a successful alignment of brand message of “magic” with cause and over 800,000 letters have been collected to date. I played with the app today, it has some fun, kid-friendly features, but it doesn’t let me send a letter to Santa from the app. I will have to wait until next year for that enhancement.
One thing to keep in mind with social cause-marketing campaigns: asking people to take action online is a more of a branding play. Today, perhaps more than ever, supporting the greater good is important to consumers. They’re more likely to remember the good deeds when it comes time to buy.