Although it’s part of the corporate lexicon, cause marketing is often misunderstood. Social responsibility and corporate citizenship practices are mistaken for or lumped in with cause marketing.
“When Ben & Jerry’s ice cream executives talk about their social, economic, and environmental policies as part of their mission statement, that is social responsibility or corporate citizenship,” says Ellen Fruchtman, president of Fruchtman Marketing. “Cause marketing is defined as a partnership between a for-profit company and a nonprofit group that seeks to establish a mutually beneficial agreement.”
Historically, retail jewelers have done charitable work as part of giving back to the community. But in recent years store owners want their causes to be a more formal part of their corporate identity.
In many ways this managerial effort is necessary for cause marketing campaigns to succeed. “At stake is creating brand equity for the retailer while garnering much-needed contributions for their nonprofit partners,” says Rafael Mael, a marketing strategist for Brand Launcher.
Retailers are starting to treat cause marketing as seriously as any other part of their business. “Cause marketing should not be a separate part of your business,” says David Rocha, executive director of Jewelers for Children. “It needs to be an integral part of your business plan and your corporate culture.”
This is becoming more important as the Millennial generation comes of age. “There are significant generational shifts going on,” says Rocha. “Millennials strongly believe they’re the generation that’s going to fix the world and are almost demanding social responsibility of some form from the companies they do business with.”
It isn’t just the Millennials. Roughly 80 percent of Americans have a more positive image of companies associated with a cause they care about, according to a 2004 Cone Corporate Citizenship Study.
Getting people in the community interested in supporting a retailer’s nonprofit partners is a key challenge in effective cause marketing. “Get your staff involved,” says Fruchtman. “If they take a lead or active role in bringing in a nonprofit, employees are much more likely to get involved.”
Cause marketing need not focus on a single group. Fruchtman suggests retailers work with two to three nonprofits in dedicating, on average, 4 to 10 percent of a store’s annual marketing budget toward cause marketing.
Fruchtman also encourages jewelers to continue to honor the many requests for silent auction donations. The recipient of today’s small donation may become tomorrow’s strategic cause marketing partner. Mael concurs: “You never know what nonprofit could be your next strategic partner,” he says. “Routinely hold strategic meetings to review and evaluate your nonprofit partners to not only generate creative ideas but to make sure the group continues to be a good fit for your cause marketing campaign.”
Existing, former, or even prospective charities also can be part of a tiered method of cause marketing. Monthly awareness campaigns, such as Susan G. Komen for the Cure during Breast Cancer Awareness in October, is one example (see “Monthly Causes”).
Days of the week designated to benefit a charity also can work in this approach. “I know a jeweler who does Battery Mondays,” says Rocha. “Each year he has raised around $3,000 for Jewelers for Children. People specifically wait until Monday to make sure the proceeds benefit a nonprofit.”
Marketing experts suggest a mix of national and local nonprofits. When working with national nonprofits, try to localize the campaign as much as possible for greater impact. For example, if you support ProLiteracy on a national level, organize a book drive for a local child’s learning center as a complement to the larger nonprofit.
In supporting a local nonprofit or charity, keep in mind it’s not always how much is given but the impact it will make. “Supporting local museums, field trips for children at a local school, children’s sport teams, or sponsoring a charitable event organized by a bowling league can make a big difference,” Rocha says.
Mael recommends using online sources to check up on philanthropic organizations. “The American Institute of Philanthropy (www.charitywatch.org) can help you avoid getting scammed or be involved with a fund that pays for salaries and admin costs and doesn’t do much in terms of direct aid,” he says.