It’s no big news that cause marketing is in right now. However, companies need to be vigilant about how their cause-marketing-related messages come across to consumers. Growing up around constant advertising, the Millennial generation has been conditioned to ignore and filter out messages from companies, resulting in a bit more cynicism than our predecessors. This cynicism gives us the ability to know if a company actually has good intentions or just wants to stay in the market with a false “do-gooder” appearance. I loved this article from DigiDay, talking about how cause marketing has been a little of “too much of a good thing” recently, or as some call it “causewashing.”
The companies that are correctly using cause marketing (no BS motives detected) are either: 1) essentially the ones that created the movement in the first place or 2) are dedicated to their causes without making it their only marketing strategy. When corporate social responsibility has been built into the core of a company’s brand identity, we’re all about it. The ultimate key to cause marketing is transparency about the cause and what exactly the company is doing it for it. Unfortunately for some, donating a mere 5% of proceeds to an obscure charity isn’t good enough anymore; we want to see real change from a company if they claim to have an impressive CSR policy.
Brands doing it right:
- LUSH Cosmetics: LUSH is one of my all time favorite cosmetic brands and they are champion cause-marketers. Their charities directly align with their products in such a way that the product is made to work with the cause itself. For example, they are combating and bringing awareness to animal testing and harmful cosmetic ingredients simply by selling their products. While their whole business platform is a cause in itself, they also sell Charity Pots where a percentage of proceeds go to a specific charity.
- Patagonia: Patagonia is one of the most transparent brands out there and they’re dedicated to their causes without making it their only marketing strategy. Most recently, they created an entire support campaign for Standing Rock, featuring almost no branding at all. This Standing Rock feature was the homepage for days. Patagonia has mastered the cause/product/content marketing balance.
- Toms: Even with some recent backlash, the Tom’s brand story comes across as genuine and well-intentioned. In my opinion, Toms is one of the top brands that started this recent cause marketing trend in the first place. The Tom’s website incorporates photos of the children they assist on almost every page and the Toms employees giving them away, which is key. Consumers see the Toms brand actively working to help the cause themselves, not just a check sent in the mail. The One-for-One business model and tagline was crucial in the success of this 2006 startup. Consumers feel as though they have personally helped an in-need individual and changed a life by purchasing shoes for themselves.
- Alex and Ani: Alex and Ani has so many things going right for them. All of their jewelry is eco-conscious, meaning both the materials used and production methods are sustainable. All of their products are made in America, which is a cause in and of itself. They also feature several “Charity By Design” collections, where a portion of the sales are donated to specific charities. Even with the various aspects of an amazing cause-marketing platform, they barely advertise it.
- KIND: I really like KIND because they have really integrated their brand identity around just the name itself and I love their message. The food is kind for your body and the brand encourages kindness in the world. The Kind Foundation aids those superheroes in local communities that genuinely care about helping other people.
Pro tip: Never post anything like “For every Share, we’ll donate…” I hate this. It sounds like you are withholding money that could be doing the world a lot of good ransom for likes and shares. If you are that desperate for engagement, I would much more respect a company that would post something like, “We have this amount of money and we want to know who our customers want us to give it to! Vote here!” Voting or commenting allows you to reach your audience and fosters engagement, without seeming like you’re withholding money just for attention.
Here’s an infographic from an AdWeek article that I found to really ring true, at least in my opinion.