Bringing Cause Marketing Forward

Marketing can be a fierce competition around the holidays, but for some companies the holiday season brings out their more humanitarian sides as well. As consumers start planning get-togethers with family and friends over long weekends, marketers tap into their customers’ sentimental feelings and bring their chosen causes to the forefront of their campaigns (those marketers who have causes, anyway). 

The holidays are obviously great for Travel marketers because it’s likely that consumers have a hotel or flight or rental car (or all of the above) planned during this time – but with increased travel comes increased traveler headaches; roads and airports can be a mess this time of year, and patience wears thin. With this in mind, along with the commoditization of travel in consumer mindsets, Travel brands should be working hard to stand out and combat the erosion of their brand that will inevitably come when a flight is delayed or a hotel is overbooked. 



Some smart brands are promoting the causes they support this holiday season to do exactly this. One great example is JetBlue’s “Fly It Forward” program, which gives a free ticket to nominated individuals involved in their community or a cause — and then lets those nominated select another individual for a free ticket, and on and on. 

Touchy and feely? Yes — but also powerful and important. Cause marketing is often sidelined because the impact can be hard to measure, but there’s strong data backing up the strategy. OutMarket recently published a post outlining several reasons for exploring cause marketing that included some fascinating numbers. For example, according to a Cone Cause Evolution study from a few years ago: 

  • 85% of those surveyed “have a more positive image of a product or company when it supports a cause they care about,” and “80% are likely to switch brands, similar in price and quality, to one that supports a cause.” 
  • Furthermore, “61% of Americans say they would be willing to try a new brand or one unfamiliar to them” if those other brands support a cause.

In addition to consumers who’d be willing to switch brands with similar price and quality, a 2013 Nielsen study indicates that 50% of consumers would actually be willing to pay more for goods and services if a company “implemented programs to give back to society.” What’s even more interesting is that those numbers rise among Moms and Millennials; 85% of Millennials, for example, will switch brands to support a cause. 

While Retail brands popular with Millennials like Toms and Warby Parker know this well and have made cause marketing a centerpiece of their strategy (and philosophy), Travel brands as a whole have been a bit slower on the uptake. What’s great about JetBlue’s approach (beyond the cause itself) is that it’ll likely cost them very little to maintain over time if they choose to do so. Look at it this way: According to Trendwatching’s recent Brand Sacrifice briefing, domestic air routes were 87.4% full in June 2014 (which is a monthly record). If roughly 13% of the seats on an average flight are unused, using just one empty seat per every 10 flights for the Fly It Forward campaign will cost next to nothing for what’s likely to be a substantial benefit to the brand and loyalty among key demographics.

At a time when every dollar is extraordinarily hard-earned and consumers find less and less difference between brands, finding that one point of differentiation that sets you apart is absolutely essential. Customer experience is certainly one of these opportunities, but the right cause — if effectively (and genuinely) promoted — can be a strong core differentiator as well. The data is there, and consumers want (and expect) it; taking the time and spending the effort to make cause marketing a cornerstone of your strategy is a good bet to drive your revenue during the holiday season and beyond.

3 comments about "Bringing Cause Marketing Forward ".
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  1. Hank Stewart from Green Team, November 10, 2014 at 11:05 a.m.

    Excellent post, and something we have been preaching for years. There is a large and growing consumer segment (we call them Awakening Consumers) that is including a company's values in its purchase decisions. The travel industry offers numerous opportunities for brands to demonstrate their values. It can be done in operations--think fuel efficiency and biofuels for airlines, water and energy reductions for hotels. It can be in employee engagement--Southwest Airlines has a long-standing, employee-based CSR program. And finally, the travel industry can demonstrate its values in an arena most industries can't--destination stewardship. Increasingly, travelers are looking for ways to ensure their visit not only does no harm, but actually benefits the natural and cultural attractions of the destinations they visit. It's the concept of restorative tourism, and it's a win-win-win for brands, travelers and destinations.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 10, 2014 at 8:27 p.m.

    Either you are pulling people's legs with this post or you think the consumer is a patsy or you are in a fog. One airline ticket makes a trip affordable not. We know kids are baggage, but really. This is silly and you can do better.

  3. Todd Wilson from Salesforce , November 10, 2014 at 9:51 p.m.

    Thank you Hank - yes, it's something I think a lot of us have been encouraging for some time. The Trendwatching briefing has another good example in STA Travel, who "announced that it would stop selling trips to destinations associated with the ‘unethical’ treatment of animals." I expect (and hope) that cause marketing will become far more visible in the near future...

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