SAN DIEGO, May 27, 2014 – Marketers struggle to be noticed and heard through the deluge of information flooding the average consumer through traditional, social, and alternative media. There are so many distractions that it’s become extremely difficult for a traditional newspaper ad, television or radio ad campaign to successfully communicate with a consumer and motivate him or her to make a purchasing decision.
Loading up on more and different advertising isn’t always feasible. Even when the ad budget is healthy enough, the approach can become so much white noise to the consumer.
As a result, many companies have turned to cause-related marketing to forge a deeper connection with the customer, supporting their community and causes they care about to win their affinity and ongoing loyalty. It is sometimes also called brand philanthropy.
Cause marketing isn’t a fad. It’s a fact, nearly a must for modern American business. According to the 2013 Cone Communications Social Impact Study, more than nine in ten people look to companies to support social or environmental issues in some way. Eighty-eight percent says they are “eager” to hear from companies about their efforts. Ninety-one percent of American adults want to see more products and services support causes that matter to them personally.
Meanwhile, trust in business dropped to its lowest level since 2001 in the most recent Edelman 2014 Trust Barometer Study, released in January. In the study, 23% of respondents reported feeling that the wrong priorities are driving business decisions. Additionally, 84% of the 33,000 respondents in this study believe that business is capable of pursuing self-interest while also giving back.
Getting this equation right is critically important. But selecting the “right” issue, matching business objectives to the cause, and connecting with the desires of the company’s customers and other stakeholders, especially their own employees, can approach the complexity of advanced physics.
After 20 years the consumer is increasingly sophisticated about cause marketing. Insincere efforts can do more harm than good; supporting a cause that is a mismatch can create confusing. Simply writing a check, slapping a company logo on something and walking away doesn’t cut it.
Now in its 16th year, the San Diego American Marketing Association’s “Cause Conference” helps nonprofit and for-profit organizations navigate this increasingly complex and vital mission. Business leaders, nonprofit executives, students, social and political leaders gather to focus on their mutual priorities, leverage their connections and resources, and collaborate for meaningful change with a measurable impact.
This year’s Cause Conference chairman is Neville Billimoria, Chief Advocacy Officer for Mission Federal Credit Union based in San Diego. Billimoria has been a passionate advocate of the value of corporate social responsibility and cause marketing for many years. Billimoria sought to bring together business leaders, visionaries and their companies under the theme of “Transformation Through Collaboration.”
“Credit unions have a double bottom line of both financial performance and social mission,” said Billimoria. “Mission Federal has invested nearly nine months equipping our region for transformation through collaboration in a way never done before, by bringing together business leaders, civic leaders, thought leaders and purpose-driven organizations of all stripes by organizing this Cause Conference.”
Billimoria points out that for companies like Mission Federal which engage their stakeholders through cause marketing campaigns, it is really not about winning customer dollars, but instead it is about investing in a cause to communicate the value of the cause within the community to its stakeholders, in a way a simple ad or commercial cannot achieve.
Mission Federal helps its nonprofit partners tell their stories and explain their mission to the public as a side-by-side partner in communication campaigns. By doing so, Mission Federal aligns itself directly with the noble intentions of the charity.
“An organization’s reason for being must transcend just generating profit. It must have a purpose, and profit is the fuel that helps you achieve your purpose,” said Billimoria. “While profit is critical (because if there is no margin, there’s no mission), organizations that want to attract loyal customers, retain their best and brightest and serve as generators of value must anchor their brand to purpose.
“This becomes a differentiator in a hyper-competitive marketplace, and a short cut to decision making given similar options,” said Billimoria.
Cause marketing will only become more important, not less. The Millennial consumer (Americans born generally in the 1980s) have even higher expectations that companies will support social and environmental issues. According to the 2013 Cone study, 84 percent of Millennials say corporate philanthropy influences where they shop; 82 percent say it influecnes what products or services they recommend. This is the modern version of “word of mouth” advertising for business, increasingly delivered via user generated content on social media to the “always connected” generation.
By building up a reservoir of goodwill with its stakeholders through cause marketing, a company is much more likely to weather a crisis created by any internal or external failure to perform. A longstanding positive relationship allows the consumer to give a company the benefit of the doubt, resulting in the time and space to make a course correction without lasting damage.
Cause marketing creates more than loyalty. It creates a shared bond with the consumer. Today, cause marketing programs are becoming more and more complicated and nonprofit organizations must have the capacity, assets, and ability to work in a corporate alliance at the advanced level of their savvy stakeholders.
To learn more about the San Diego American Marketing Association Cause Conference, visit its website.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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