By Elizabeth Dove
Not that long ago cause marketing – leveraging a brand to encourage consumer participation in a cause effort – was the practice of just a few Canadian companies. Often it was a point-of-sale request to buy a leaf or shoe cut-out you sign and the store mounts, or give an extra toonie when you buy your java to help a kids' cause. Now cause marketing is considered an integral part of marketing for both business and charities. And, as evidenced at Toronto’s inaugural Companies and Causes Canada conference on Oct. 28, execution has become considerably more innovative, measured and refined based on evidence.
This is good news for at-cash employees, as evidence suggests they are uncomfortable with asking for donations: In the effort to win an external audience through at-cash requests for a cause, companies may be turning off their internal audience. Presenter Phil Haid of Public encourages companies who wish to respond to the evidence of at-cash engagement preference to create a campaign that makes it compelling for customers to ask to participate in-store versus being prompted by an employee.
These findings support the efforts of companies such as conference presenter Telus whose multiple cause marketing campaigns, such as #givewherewelive and Go Pink, have employed innovative, sharable techniques (using selfies, social media) and locally-tailored campaigns with trusted charities like WWF and a focus on local impact. Telus gave more to cause charities in 2013 than all of the telecom companies combined and can quantify the payoffs of their techniques with metrics such as: decreased customer complaints, increased employee engagement and a larger share of Facebook followers than all other telecoms combined; additionally, 55 percent of customers say Telus' cause commitments influence their decision to stay.
Your data-informed campaign has to employ the preferred techniques of your consumer. Millennials are far more likely to respond to a campaign that has tools built in to allow them to share their participation with their social media network than one where they simply pin on a button. Choice of charity partners also must be informed by alignment with cause, your consumer and your brand. But of course there is so much more that needs to go into creating the best partnership fit, which presents an opportunity for next year’s conference to explore.
But short-term business interests often trump this. What will it take for more businesses to take this long view on sustainable change investment -- and step out from the safe issues multiple businesses rally behind -- to bring more of the root causes of inequity and eroding sustainability to light?
Image credits: 1) Elizabeth Dove 2) Telus
Elizabeth Dove is a specialist in strategically engaging the public, companies and government on sustainability and social change. She has worked as senior staff and consultant for initiatives that support the arts, child welfare, public health and particularly international development. Passionate about the power of collaboration, she seeks out projects that bring together actors from different sectors to create value for their organizations and the broader community. She is Senior Vice-President, Strategy at The Divinsky Group and an Associate at Open Spaces Learning, a Canadian change management firm helping companies realize business and social impact. Twitter: @EDove5