Thriving in Troubled Times: Cause and Effectiveness

Cause marketing enables jewelers to do well by doing good. That’s the advice of David L. Rocha, executive director of Jewelers for Children, which supports six charities helping abused or ill children.

“Cause marketing opens doors to increased sales and can make money for jewelers,” says Rocha. “It can build strong customer relationships, employee dedication, forge lasting community relationships, and help make the world—and your store—a better place.”

In the first of a two-part report in our series on coping with tough economic times, Rocha talks about cause marketing. Part two in November will spotlight three independent jewelers whose charity events boosted their business.

What is cause marketing?

It’s a commercial activity, a strategic position, and a marketing tool linking a retailer to a relevant social cause or charity for their mutual benefit. It also helps a business evolve from checkbook philanthropy into a good corporate citizen.

That’s important to consumers. National surveys find 80 percent of Americans have a more positive image of companies that support a cause they care about. Two-thirds would likely switch to a retailer associated with a good cause, and more than half would pay more for cause marketers’ products or services.

How does cause marketing affect employees?

That same research finds 87 percent of employees in companies doing cause marketing feel a strong sense of loyalty to them.

What are cause marketing’s business benefits?

It differentiates your business to consumers in a positive way from other jewelers and competitors. It’s a competitive edge providing tangible benefits like increased sales, visibility, and standing in the community; increased customer and employee loyalty; enhanced company image; and positive media coverage.

Is cause marketing more or less important in tough economic times?

In difficult times, jewelers must work harder to attract customers’ discretionary dollars, because jewelry store shopping isn’t high on their list. So, it’s even more important to show you’re a caring corporate citizen. With consumers thinking twice before spending, and increasingly basing buying decisions on how they perceive a retailer’s corporate citizenship, anything jewelers do to motivate them to come into the store—like cause marketing—is important.

Should cause marketing specifically target the affluent in tough times?

Jewelers who market properly should already have identified and targeted their appropriate customers, including affluent ones. Remember, though, while affluent consumers are better able to afford jewelry in tough times, they don’t want to feel self-indulgent. Cause marketing helps them feel good about a purchase, knowing it helps do good locally or nationally.

How do jewelers develop a cause marketing strategy?

First, identify causes that best fit your business and are supported by your customers, employees, and community. Include employees in choosing a cause and planning its marketing to ensure their interest and support in promoting it.

Any tips on choosing a cause?

For maximum benefit, partner with both local and national charities. Jewelers should work with local charities, because they’re known to their community and customers. They also offer the jeweler opportunities to build personal relationships with people in them—usually influential community figures—and in local civic groups supporting them, and for more local media coverage.

Tying in with a well-known national charity provides immediate recognition, even for community newcomers who might not know the local charities. They also have broader appeal, provide opportunities for wider media coverage, and often have local or regional offices with which to work.

Is there a source where jewelers can check out national charities?

To see which are worthy of your support, go to www.charitynavigator.org. It rates them, based on IRS information.

After picking a cause, what’s next?

Develop a comprehensive, long-term cause-marketing strategy, incorporate it into your overall business plan, and put your message in everything—ads, press releases, newsletters, in-store events, marketing, and Web site.

How does a jeweler actually do cause marketing?

Three tactical approaches—message promotions, licensing and charity product promotions, and transaction promotions—foster consumer awareness and donations. Message promotion raises awareness or participation, with things like a canister on the store counter, displays, signage, charity lapel pins worn by store employees, or donating merchandise to charity auctions.

Licensing or sale of charity products (like charms or toy bears) involves selling a charity’s, or your own, product with the charity name, image, or logo to promote both the charity and your store.

Transaction promotions encourage consumer participation and purchases by promising a percentage of the sale to charity.

What about the community?

Opportunities for community involvement in your cause-marketing strategy are abundant. They include—but aren’t limited to—donating merchandise to charity fund raisers, sponsoring an event, advertising on a local charity’s Web site, sponsoring a local sports team, or volunteering your store—that is, yourself and your staff—for participation in local events, like charity auctions or walks.

Is cause marketing expensive for jewelers?

There isn’t much added overhead. It’s as inexpensive—or expensive—as a jeweler chooses. Every American jeweler probably makes one charitable donation annually. Incorporate that into ad and marketing programs.