A few notable programs:
- General Mills has educated many through its Boxtops for Education program, which now generates an astonishing $75 million for schools annually.
- Tide cleans up through its Loads of Hope program, a mobile washing facility that helps victims of natural disasters with laundry needs.
- The online retailer TOMS foots the bill for a one-for-one matching donation of footwear and eyewear sales.
- Dick’s Sporting Goods wisely conducts concussion testing for young athletes at retail locations.
- McDonald’s serves families of recovering children through 300 Ronald McDonald houses.
Cause marketing causes the company’s reputation and sales to grow, while making a meaningful difference in addressing the cause, typically through awareness, funding and organizational support. Everybody wins.
- Pick your cause carefully. You’ll likely be involved in this cause for a long time. Pick a cause that stirs your soul and advances your business. Make sure it meshes with your brand, energizes your staff and is appreciated by your customers. Consider an implementation approach that is fresh and unique. Take time to test the cause and your approach.
- Pick partners carefully. A nonprofit partner may or may not be involved. If it is, make sure the partner is ready to mobilize and committed to a win-win outcome. Goals and objectives, roles and responsibilities, and rights and protections are among the items that should be discussed. By all means, create a gentle exit such as renewal provisions and morality clauses to protect everyone.
- Go big. An effective cause marketing initiative cannot be started and stopped like a seasonal promotion. It’s far greater than buying a table at your CEO’s favorite charity, donating items to the school auction or donning a ribbon. The success of the cause should be so important that it motivates you to bring all of your resources to bear on making a difference. Make it part of the company culture, reaching into sales, marketing and human resources.
One regional example is Nutter Corporation. Imagine a heavy civil contractor causing thousands to fall in love with heavy equipment, creating industry advocates and future employees while raising $100,000 annually for charities. Nutter does it every year by hosting Dozer Day.
Another shining example is nLIGHT. Concerned that the regional workforce pipeline was short on people talented in science, technology, engineering and math, this emerging computer laser manufacturer formed nConnect. The program encourages students to take advanced placement courses, and pairs them with a mentor from industry. More than 200 students are now involved.
If you’re in a competitive business environment where your products and services barely raise an eyebrow in the marketplace, perhaps it’s time to consider investing in cause marketing. As Abraham Lincoln once quipped, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
Ron Arp operates the communications and PR firm Amplify Group from Brush Prairie, where he develops cause marketing programs involving football legend Dick Butkus. He can be reached at 360.601.2991 or firstname.lastname@example.org.