Social Media Hearts Cause Marketing

Actionable Marketing 101

Cause marketing is the coordinated efforts of both for-profit and not-for-profit (NFP) organizations towards a common charitable and/or social goal. More broadly, it’s applied to marketing for charitable and social causes. Cause or social marketing shouldn’t be confused with social media marketing.

Why do companies participate in cause-related marketing?

Simple: Cause-related marketing translates to bottom line improvement.  Here’s what Cone Inc.’s 2010 Cause Evolution Study found:

  • 85% of consumers have a more positive image of a product or company when it supports a cause they care about.
  • 80% of Americans are likely to switch brands to one that supports a cause if they’re about equal in price and quality.
  • 41% of Americans bought a product in the last year due to its a cause or issue association.

To add to their challenges, these organizations tend to have a lower amount of resources, both in terms of headcount and dollars, to accomplish more complex objectives. As a result, they are also highly political relative to for-profit companies since there’s less money to go around. While most marketing strategies focus on one goal, often increase profitability, by its nature Social or NFP marketing focuses on five major goals.

  1. Raise awareness. As with any organization, it’s critical to build your brand and get your target markets as well as the public as a whole to know you.
  2. Increase users of services. At its core, every NFP or social cause exists to provide services. Therefore you need to be able to deliver your help to those people who need it when they are in need.
  3. Drive donations. Every social and/or NFP organization requires funds. These can come from a variety of sources including the government, companies, foundations and individuals. Some organizations accept merchandise for distribution.
  4. Attract volunteers (and employees.) Depending on the cause, organizations may need help providing service to all of the potential clients.
  5. Be a good neighbor. As a public entity, an NFPs must be able to interact with their neighbors. Depending on the organization’s mission and clients, neighbors as well as the public may not want them to be located in certain areas. For example, a drug clinic.

Unlike for-profit marketing, NFP organizations have eight distinct target audiences, each with a different perspective. When examining a NFP’s potential audience, it’s important to remember that donors and volunteers tend to associate with an organization because they have a personal tie through a friend or family member. Further, women tend to be more involved with NFPs and causes.

  1. Clients are the recipients of the services.
  2. Donors are the people who give money to the organization. They can include corporations and foundations.
  3. Volunteers are people who give their time to work with the organization’s clients or on fund raising activities.
  4. Employees are people who work for organization. While NFP jobs tend to have a lower pay scale, it gives employees a sense of making the world a better place.
  5. Government is involved in terms of how the organization is established and incorporated. This has an impact on the financial status of the organization.
  6. Press is useful for providing cost-effective message distribution.
  7. Board of Directors are an organization’s outside governing executives. They are generally selected for their ability to donate and to get others to donate. It’s helpful if they have a strong personal connection to the cause.
  8. Community is the public in the area where the organization is located.

Here’s how these two factors work together:

Introducing social media marketing into the cause marketing mix helps broaden an organization’s reach due to the ability to quickly share and amplify a message. The challenge is how to convert hand-raising behavior, in terms of likes and social sharing, to actions in the form of donations and volunteers. One cause that has done a great job of this is Tweetsgiving. Now in its third year, Tweetsgiving allows people to participate on Twitter. Additionally, it makes donations small enough to fit a wide range of pocketbooks and ties it to something real,  such as placing people’s names on school buildings in Africa with their donations.

If you have any suggestions or recommendations, please add them in the comment section below.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Tip of my hat to Chris Brogan and The Social CMO for their #MMChat focused on Cause Marketing and Influencers.  (Here’s the full transcript of Chris Brogan’s MMChat.) Additionally, here’s tip of my hat to PRTini and JGoldborough for hosting on #PRChat.

In addition, I’d like to recognize Carrie Kerpen of Likeable Media for her contributions to building awareness for Tweetsgiving.

Photo credit:  AussieGall via Flickr

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