by Tony Fannin, president, BE Branded
Retailers have taken a beating over the last 12-18 months and this holiday season didn’t look much better. Many people just don’t have the money to spend. To compound the problem, those who do, feel guilty and don’t want to be seen as over indulging on conspicuous consumption, so they just hold on to their money or spend less. What to do? Retailers have found a way to do good while selling more.
Instead of asking you to donate a $1 for a particular charity, many retailers have attached a charity to your purchase. If you buy a Wii at Target, you also are donating to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. If you buy a tie for dear ol’ dad you are contributing to a child’s joy though the Make A Wish Foundation via Macy’s. Cause marketing is allowing consumers to spend money AND feel good about themselves. Consumers are responding by buying. This gives them a logical reason on why to go ahead and buy the new Jay-Z headphones because they’ll be helping the Toys for Tots Foundation. Consumers also like the fact they are not asked to “donate a $1 or $5″ for a charity and feel guilty for not adding that extra money to their already large tab. They are giving just by buying.
Cause marketing is not new, but it has become a tactic that is working this holiday season. The key is that it must make sense to your brand and it must be genuine. We all know when a company is just “using” a charity for selfish reasons. The goodwill gesture must be in line with your brand position. It must support the core reason of why you exist as a business. The critical factor is to find alignment with your brand and the brand of the charity.
Marketers also need to create a win-win-win situation. The customer must win by feeling good about their purchase. The charity must win by gaining financially and awareness. The marketer must win by extending their core brand. This happens when the cause is a natural extension of the brand promise. (ToysRUs = Toys for Tots).
A note to charities and not-for-profits: don’t be too self-righteous about working with marketers and believing consumerism is bad. It is the success of business that allows for corporate funds to flow your way. It is the rise in profits that raises the level of all boats in the harbor, so to speak. Embrace business. In fact, I know of several national and global charities who have brought in former CEOs of business to help them run their organizations like a business. The end result is more financial gain to help those they serve. The more the profits, the more people that are affected.
As long as you keep your brand consistent, cause marketing can be a great tactic to extend your brand and to show your customers a new way of seeing that brand come to life in a meaningful way. Just because you’re trying to do good, doesn’t mean you abandon sound marketing principles.