Three Cause-marketing Trends I'm Working On In 2012

With 2012 just two days old, there have been a profusion of futurists, economists, marketers, and thinkers making predictions about what 2012 may hold. Perhaps mauve is now super-cool among trendy Tokyo teens. So prognosticators make predictions about how mauve will explode in popularity in the coming year in Europe and North America.

Trend analysis then ends up being something like Angry Birds, where you can see the tracing from your last shot.

That said, in Angry Birds as in life, what your shot does depends not just on the trendline but where it lands and the conditions on the ground.

What does the future of cause marketing hold in 2012 then?

Well, according to the influential computer scientist Alan Kay, and others, “the best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

Here, then, are three cause marketing points of emphasis I’m working on with clients that I would be glad to see as trends for 2012:

1. More Cause Marketing Activations on Packaging.

Coca-Cola got into trouble for its all-white Coke cans meant to raise awareness of the plight of the shrinking habitat of polar bears, and to generate funds for the World Wildlife Fund. Customers mistook the cans for Diet Coke and complained. Coke’s failure notwithstanding, I’m advising clients that make or sell packaged goods to activate their cause marketing on their packaging.

Think about it; Procter & Gamble’s Tide laundry detergent brand can promote to customers and prospects up until the moment they walk into a retail store. But once there, they see Tide contrasted against dozens of competitors. But if Tide activates its Loads of Hope on packages of Tide, it stands out exactly at the point of consumer decision. Look for much more cause-marketing activations on packaging in 2012.

2. Deeper Connections Between Employees and the Cause.

One criticism of cause marketing is that the connection between the cause and the sponsor is so shallow. You don’t have to look hard to see sponsorships that are nothing more than an exchange of logos and cash. It shouldn’t be that way. So in 2012, I’m advising clients to look beyond simple transactional cause marketing … do X and we’ll make a donation to cause Y… and take their cause marketing campaigns to another level.

Causes need more than cash. They also need specific expertise and helping hands. Companies have both. Connecting them benefit both cause and sponsor in unexpected ways. Smart nonprofits know that, on average, volunteers donate twice as much as non-volunteers. Savvy businesses understand that the sense of purpose employees get from volunteer work makes them more engaged and motivated on the job. Employee volunteerism isn’t new, of course. But in the push to expand the scope of cause marketing, too many of us have forgotten that greater connection between cause and employees benefits all.

3. More Cause Marketing Activations that Lead With Thanks.

Here’s how the usual cause-marketing efforts go: There’s a lead-in period where the campaign is activated via advertising or PR. The effort takes place. And then the cause receives the check. In most cases that’s where the cycle either ends or repeats itself. Missing from the cycle is any report to customers on how it went or even thanks for their role.

And yet people who support cause-marketing efforts want to hear how it went. They their decision validated. They want to know who was helped and how it made a difference, even if they’re concurrently being asked to continue to support the effort. That’s why in 2012 I’m advising clients to look at “thanks” and “activity reports” as an opportunity for a more meaningful conversation with stakeholders.

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1 comment about "Three Cause-marketing Trends I'm Working On In 2012".
  1. Matt Sternberg from Thwapr , January 4, 2012 at 4:54 p.m.
    Thanks for a great post, Paul. These are all excellent takeaways for the new year. My company, Thwapr, can help with all 3 (and I would add a 4th - that mobile activations will continue to grow). Check out what we're doing for Cyndi Lauper's Give a Damn Campaign - www.wegiveadamn.org/videos/ or text DAMN to 757575 Would love to discuss in more detail how Thwapr and our mobile video solutions can help cause marketers. Matt Sternberg 212-305-3227 msternberg@thwapr.com