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What is cause marketing?

airplane30902462.jpgMany companies are now being driven by the world trends for their products. This has lead to a dramatic shift in marketing as companies now realize that in order to be effective they must respond, to the socially conscious demands of their customers. More and more customers are looking for businesses that deal with the world in an equitable and fair way. This premise has become one of the major driving forces in how and where they spend their dollars. While socially conscious businesses have always been around, however, now more than ever, consumers are making buying decisions based on a preference for doing business with organizations and brands that demonstrate an authentic involvement in supporting our communities and our world. Savvy business owners understand this and have begun basing their marketing around strategies that will allow them to express this to their potential customer. This has become known as cause marketing.

As mentioned above many multinational corporations are taking advantage of the concept of doing good in business, to build authentic corporate reputations, and drive enduring brand preference. These businesses are responding to a shift in social awareness, which, as consumers' values change, is impacting the sales and the bottom line. However, it must be stressed that these efforts must be authentic, for consumers to exhibit long-lasting loyalty to your company. Interestingly, studies have shown that western companies (in the most developed countries in the world); have been slow to embrace this powerful opportunity.

It is important to realize that cause marketing takes the notions of philanthropy and corporate social responsibility, one step further by engaging the consumer in a brand or company's social work. Marketers have become more aware of the fact that connecting their brand with the right cause can be a powerful way to create an emotional tie, between the product and its consumers. When this successfully happens, consumers will associate a brand with a positive cause, and even regularly purchase a brand because of its affiliation with the cause. This becomes a win-win situation for both the charity and the company, and is an increasingly popular strategy. Studies have predicted that cause marketing will be the fastest-growing category of sponsorship spending in 2010. Businesses that fail to realize this and capitalize on it are missing a powerful opportunity.

It is important to note that the trick to making real, long-term brand connections between a cause and a business, is finding the right strategic partnership. Keep in mind that the most effective campaigns are those that connect both sides' enlightened self interests and make the proposition believable and worthy, of the resources and effort that successful partnerships require.

Marketing experts stress that if you're building a new social responsibility platform for your business, you should not just choose a random cause. You need to consider this an opportunity to learn about what's most important to your business. Be sure to take time to consider causes that best match your company culture, and ask your employees about the causes that matter to them. Remember that if you can't see and easily explain the connection between your brand and your charity, consumers won't believe it, and it's unlikely the effort will sustain commitment.

Marketers must also understand that in order to maintain a long-term cause-marketing effort, companies must find a sustainable way to fund them. What this means is that marketing dollars alone cannot support a charitable commitment for long. One effective solution is the sale of branded goods and services. However, this can be taken a step further with directly engaging consumers in a face-to-face conversation, creating a memorable event or installing a pop-up store, or any other type of event that would continue to build the connection of cause marketing. The bottom line is that businesses that utilize cause marketing have a variety of opportunities, to build long-term consumer awareness, support and loyalty.

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