[Approx. 2.5 minutes reading time.]
Cause marketing is getting a lot of press these days as one of the best ways to boost the visibility of your business. Several Fortune 500 companies have credited a 70% increase in sales over time to their cause marketing.
As you plan your campaign, keep in mind that timing is everything. It’s one of the three pillars of a successful PR campaign: when you launch and the duration, the originality and creativity of the idea, and the target audience.
Within those parameters, the campaign also needs to fit within the context of the brand’s personality and generate momentum toward target goals. Hopefully, it will be part of a bigger brand strategy, rather than something randomly done to try to generate some publicity for your business.
With these thoughts in mind, here are five ways to craft a successful cause marketing campaign, while being of service to the community.
Five ways to be more time sensitive:
1. Be open-minded. Think outside of the (holiday) box. Unless your idea is the cleverest one that any journalist has ever seen, avoid doing any cause marketing during the holidays. Remember, if it’s not new, it’s not news.
That’s why jumping on the charity band wagon from Thanksgiving through New Years, makes it virtually impossible to get anyone to pay attention. Think about it: how many calls, mailers, and emails from charities do you get at the end of the year, hoping that you’ll donate to them for a last minute tax deduction? Plan a cause marketing campaign when you won’t be competing for donations with everyone.
2. Be topical. Pay attention to the news. What is going on right now that’s affecting your community? Can you help solve this issue somehow? Can you get onboard immediately? In 2009, with unemployment rates being higher than they’d been since the Great Depression, we created a campaign that helped to make it easier for people who were out of work and needed all the financial assistance they could get as they struggled to rejoin the workforce. Back To Work Wednesdays was a very successful campaign in terms of the number of people it helped, the amount of media coverage for our client, and re-branding the client as a more caring member of the community – rather than just another dry cleaner in Los Angeles.
3. Be first. Whether it’s first in your community or first anywhere, if no one else has done it, you’re newsworthy right out of the gate. It’ s the biggest perk to being original — but that can also make it scary.
If you do several Google searches and don’t find evidence of anything similar, you may question yourself, “If this is such a great idea, why is no one else doing it?” If it’s a fun, helpful idea, carefully plot out each step from beginning to end. You may want to check in with a couple of people whose advice you trust, and who make bold choices themselves.
Go with your gut instinct and take the risk. Keep it quiet until you launch officially so that you don’t get copy-cat campaigns by your competitors. Once you’ve put the word out, celebrate! Coming up with truly unique ideas that are relevant to your business takes imagination and courage, so give yourself a pat on the back.
4. Be a team player. The Downtown Glendale Merchants Association found out that by February, many of the city’s food banks were nearly empty. Helen McDonagh, the DGMA President at the time and Elisa Glickman of the Historic Alex Theatre came up with a brilliant idea to use Valentine’s Day to “Share The Love”. It Factory Media collaborated with them and added the tagline, “Because hunger isn’t romantic.”
By sharing the spotlight with other Glendale businesses that were willing to participate in the food drive, everyone benefitted. Food banks were replenished and participating businesses garnered both positive publicity and foot traffic as residents of Glendale contributed non-perishable food items.
5. Be green — when you can. Some ideas can’t be repeated. Very topical causes don’t happen every year (at least, we hope not!) but when it’s possible, try to come up with an evergreen campaign.
Once you’ve found a time of year that works well for your company and target audience, brand it to make it your own. Repeat it every year. Your vendors and customers will look forward to it, and your donations should increase as you put the word out each year. Consistently giving back to your community demonstrates reliability, and healthy relationships are built on trust. It’s an honor to have people rely on your business in times of need. It makes the world a better place, one city block — and one url — at a time.