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Purpose-Driven Marketing: Content With a Cause

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), for some, is a set of check-boxes to demonstrate that your company cares. Smart companies, however, recognize that it’s much more than this — especially with a millennial demographic leading the charge on social entrepreneurship programs and making a positive difference throughout the world. As a result, we're seeing more and more Purpose-Driven Marketing.

Organizations like The Unreasonable Institute and The Savory Institute are challenging the status quo of global society: from business start-ups that save lives to land stewardship and responsible meat consumption. There is a growing momentum for change that starts with people. That means great opportunities for marketers.

Purpose-Driven Marketing = Content that Joins Passion With Social Purpose

Ever notice that some of the most engaging stories are true stories? And what better story is there than making the world a better place? Enter the era of social responsibility; purpose-driven marketing (a.k.a. cause marketing) celebrates both what you do and whom you help. In most story arcs, our approach is to focus on the customer as the hero, but in this context, everyone can be the hero—your team, your brand, and your customers.

Customers respond well to brands that support worthy causes. According to a Cone Cause Evolution Survey, the percentage of consumers who would switch from one brand to another if the second brand is associated with a good cause has jumped to 87 percent. That’s significant.

When you deliver on the promise of your commitment to a cause, customers make the connection.

The ROI on doing good may be difficult to measure, in the same way it can be difficult to put a dollar figure on the value of brand awareness. Nevertheless, the demand for products and services connected with purpose-driven marketing will be greater than with ordinary advertising because it enables consumers to forge a stronger emotional connection than they make with standard advertising. From a marketing expense viewpoint, you can get a lot of bang for the buck. The stories you get from helping a nonprofit are very human. You can capture the stories of passionate people.

Don’t forget, the non-profits you work with also have an incentive to promote the campaign because of the upside for them. They will put you into their social media campaigns and create content that you can use. Your brand, the non-profit, and the customer—purpose-driven marketing is a win-win-win.

To create an effective campaign you need to follow some guidelines, or the results will be less than stellar. Make no mistake, when you want to do good with a marketing benefit in mind, you are making a commitment. It’s not like testing the waters with a Google ad, on which you can pull the plug when you don’t get traction the first day out. Clearly, you want to do your homework. If your firm is large enough, consider having an in-house manager of cause marketing who works directly with the non-profit organization and your marketing team and agency partner. Here are some keys to success.

Key #1: Choose a cause related to your products and services

Find a cause that is directly related to what you do. It makes it easy to help, and it makes it easy for consumers to make the connection between your brand and the non-profit. If you sell toys, it might be better to give toys to needy children than, say, food.

NOTE: If it’s difficult to match a particular cause to your products and services, the next best alternative is ensuring that the cause you choose matches your articulated values. How your values support any cause will be a natural part of your story, regardless of how closely the cause is related to your business.

For example, Procter & Gamble partnered their Olay skin-care line with the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. The campaign focuses on skin cancer, inspiring women to protect their skin from sunlight. The program helped more than 9,000 women get free skin-cancer screenings.

Of course, Toms’ famous One for One program is more direct, as it relates to the product line and brand. Toms gives away a pair of shoes for every pair that is purchased. It is a good story, and when you use the product you can imagine needy people wearing the shoes they received because of your purchase. Tom’s has now expanded the model to other products—an eyewear purchase restores sight for a person in need.

Key # 2: Be authentic

Authenticity counts. It means you walk the talk because it is important to you, and it reflects your company vision. Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s, never knew his birth mother. He was adopted by a couple from Kalamazoo, Michigan when he was six months old. For more than twenty years, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has helped thousands of children in foster care experience their first family memories and has assisted in more than 5,000 adoptions.

Although the authenticity in the example above clearly relates to Thomas’ own childhood, it’s not always that clear. With this in mind, it’s good to be aware of the balance between the promotion of your selected cause and the promotion of your company. As a rule, keep it more about them than you. Even if you’re helping someone, nobody responds well to “Hey, look over here at all the good I’m doing!”

Key # 3: Make your goodwill understandable

Consumers and audiences cannot get behind something they don’t understand. As with an elevator pitch, someone should be able to grasp the why, what, and for whom of your campaign in about five to ten seconds. Make your call to action easy to comprehend— a certain number of volunteers needed, or a specific donation amount. It gets lost when you say you will give “2 percent of sales” to an organization. It is difficult for your audience to understand what that means: Is that 2 percent of gross or net? Is there a dollar amount? How much is it? We are talking about more than transparency (although that is important); it’s about getting real. When the Houston Food Bank states that “$20 provides 60 nutritious meals” and “$120 feeds a family of four for a month,” it’s fairly clear.

Key # 4: Deliver on your promise

If you are going to help veterans, help them. If you enter a relationship with a non-profit to make a difference, then your customers and audiences will expect just that. If you don’t deliver, it will be worse for your brand, and possibly for your sales, than if you never tried. Kmart formed a partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and has donated more than $76.7 million since 2006. Because of this, St. Jude named a facility at their Memphis campus ”The Kmart St. Jude Life Center.” The center helps patients stay healthy after active treatment ends. The point: when you follow through with giving, you get better results.

This post is part of the Transformative Digital Marketing series, which features excerpts from the Amazon best-selling book (of the same name) written by the co-founders of Room 214.

Interested in learning more?

Buy the book on Amazon  

Schedule a call with an author and co-founder.





Jason Cormier

Jason Cormier

As a co-founder of Room 214, Jason is dedicated to helping people and companies grow. He is a best-selling author of Transformative Digital Marketing, served on HubSpot's first Global Partner Advisory Council, and is currently recognized as one of Colorado's top CEOs (Titan 100, 2021). He believes in acting out of love instead of fear, leading with humility and staying curious.


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