Marketing is an industry propelled by change. Staying on top of the next device or newest ad format is likely what keeps most brand marketers up at night. There will always be buzzwords, trends and new “it” platforms that are revealed as quickly as they fade. But chasing every trend is not effective. The best way for marketers to know where to focus is to stay tuned to consumer attitudes. Looking beyond the latest digital advances, consumer demands are shaped by economic and social climates, too. A great example of how this combination can force brands to adapt is cause marketing.
Back in 1983, a popular credit card company first introduced cause-related marketing with a national promotion in support of the Statue of Liberty restoration. From that point on, many companies started contributing to causes. Some even ran cause-related campaigns from time to time, but then came the influential Millennial.
Numbering more than 80 million and, according to Forbes, worth about $200 billion in annual buying power, Millennials tend to act as a megaphone for today’s consumers. This cohort was the first generation of Americans to grow up alongside cause marketing and, not surprisingly, is often described as civic-minded and pro-social. Those cultural traits, coupled with the fact that Millennials came of age with technology at their fingertips — and in their pockets — made a significant impact on what we now expect from brands. Today, brands must not only stand for something, but also make an authentic, cross-channel marketing effort that engages consumers.
The payoff here is that marketing a brand’s social responsibility efforts is no longer a trend. It is the norm. Consumers believe companies have responsibilities beyond making money (although that’s okay too). And brands that understood this notion early on have already set the bar. A financial contribution is no longer enough; it needs to be part of a brand’s long-term strategy.
Of course, sustaining these efforts requires proving success. To do so, it’s important that measurement is included in the earliest discussions of a campaign. Identify or establish benchmarks first. Then determine the methodologies that are in place (or need to be) to collect relevant results. As many cause marketers know, it’s a struggle to demonstrate value after the fact.
When planning, audit all of the channels being driven to and determine what metrics are outputs of those channels (e.g., website visits, app downloads, retweets, etc.) Then match those outputs with campaign objectives. For instance, a campaign aimed at generating awareness would require different reporting than a campaign intended to change behavior (i.e., impressions/reach vs. actions taken).
Applying these concepts to your brand. Helping your client or company quickly recognize opportunities in cross-platform integration and digital amplification of a significant trend like cause marketing will add value to your role as an agency or marketer.
For example, a banking client of ours focuses on environmental responsibility. Knowing the audience, we saw significant opportunity in sharing this Corporate Social Responsibility message more broadly through a series of cross-channel campaigns that laddered up to the vision of a greener Manhattan.
To ensure our efforts went beyond awareness and made an impact, we took advantage of existing relationships our client had with two major environmental advocacy groups that are actively making a difference.
With partners in place, we looked at how we could tell a story of brand commitment in an innovative way. The real challenge was to deliver a soft message, like environment, to a cluttered place like New York City. We deployed a combination of experiential, digital and social tactics, as well as traditional marketing support, to capture the attention of consumers as well as directly involve them in this mission.
So, we built a forest inside of a truck. This mobile forest traveled to local communities and events to “bring green” to urban NYC neighborhoods, literally. The mobile forest could be tracked through an online event calendar including stops made at our client’s stores and attention-grabbing tree giveaways. To increase engagement, the truck featured a branded hashtag that was used across all social platforms and digital content. Additionally, because of the experiential nature of this campaign, mobile was key. We ensured the website was responsive to account for the spike in visits as the truck roamed the city.
For this campaign, awareness was a primary measure of success. We tracked 7,785 visitors to the mobile forest. They took more than 2,000 shareable photos while on board. Further, the #tdforests campaign garnered 3.2 million social media impressions and, best of all, found 1,357 new trees a home to be planted. The company has seen incredible feedback and engagement from their efforts to restore the greenery in NYC and beyond.
In the ecosystem of industry change, consumer values and integration, remember to adapt strategically, build campaigns that are authentic, amplify messages on the right digital tools and effectively measure impact. If a brand is going to be associated with a cause it can no longer be a line on their website. Consumers need to experience it to believe it.