From poverty and hunger to access to clean water, financial services and education, it’s no secret that our world faces enormous challenges. Governments and NGOs are doing their best to champion those who lack access to the basics in life, but they can’t succeed alone. The challenges are too big, too complicated, and too expensive. There is an overwhelming need for public and private sectors to come together to help better our societies.
As marketers we have long championed cause marketing programs as an impactful way for brands to get involved, but our programs can go further by evolving them from “nice-to-dos” to “must-dos.” Fundamentally, we should strive to create long-term, purpose-driven programs that allow brands to do well while doing good.
Consumers, particularly millennials, are increasingly looking to businesses as a force for positive social impact, and when brands engage in social issues, they are more likely to earn their trust and loyalty. This shift in perception and recognition of the role brands play is quite extraordinary, so how brands engage and why is more important than ever
When setting out on this path, there are a few key considerations:
Strive for authenticity with the right cause. Brands that are all over the cause marketing map — fighting hunger one year, focusing on education the next — gather little momentum from a branding perspective. While they’re certainly making a difference for the organizations they support, they’re less likely to be recognized for those good works on a long-term basis.
A carefully chosen, brand-relevant cause can grow and evolve over time, magnifying the impact on benefactors and the company. General Mills products feed millions of school children, and its long-running “Box Tops for Education” program has earned over $800 million for the nation’s schools since 1996. And notably, TOMS shoes has been appropriately applauded for taking cause marketing to a new level with its “one-for-one” approach. Few cause marketing programs are so neatly tied to a company and its products.
Set — and achieve — measurable, transparent goals. People crave tangible results —whether in their giving or in the impact they’re trying to make. They want to clearly understand how the program works. Making sure your cause marketing campaign has well-defined goals, and with clarity around the consumers’ role in helping achieve these goals, is probably your most important piece of communication.
For example, during our annual Stand Up To Cancer dining out campaign, it’s clear that Mastercard will make a donation to SU2C every time cardholders spend $10 or more for a qualifying meal using their Mastercard, adding up to $4 million.
We’ve been a partner of Stand Up To Cancer for more than seven years, helping to make a difference in cancer research. The success of our partnership has been remarkable, thanks, in part, to its longevity and that people know what to expect along with understanding the collective impact they are making.
Partner appropriately as they become an extension of your brand. Establish partnerships that are particularly relevant for your target audience. Not all partners are equal, even if they seemingly have the same mission. Look for partners that have a track record of working with the private sector and the capacity to implement programs at scale. If customers care about your brand, and your social responsibility efforts are similarly meaningful to them, those alliances will be appreciated and supported even more.
California-based Clif Bar — which produces organic foods and drinks — caters to consumers who care deeply about physical health. Thus, its ongoing alliance with Breathe California, a non-profit dedicated to fighting lung disease, is a smart marriage. Companies hoping to find the perfect partner with like-minded values should conduct active searches using reputable cause marketing “matchmakers.”
Look for sustainable programs beyond the donation. By choosing and establishing longstanding relationships with the right non-profit partners, cause marketing programs have the potential to have a dramatic cumulative effect. Through our Priceless Causes strategy, where we leverage the power and reach of our global network to enable “communities of giving” to drive a longer-term effect. Our ongoing relationship with the World Food Programme School Meals Program is a great example, where the impact of the program is going beyond the mission to help end hunger to helping to create a sustainable environment for the community to thrive.
This year we are on track to deliver another 4 million school meals that will go to a community in Rwanda, marking a total of 12 million school meals delivered over the past three years. To make this possible Mastercard, together with our bank and retail partners, connects cardholders across 11 countries in Europe to a variety of merchants and enables 400 locations as “donation stops.” For the consumer the concept is simple: for every transaction made, a meal is donated.
Locally, there has been a 14% increase in school attendance (18% increase in girls attending) furthering education; and the local farmers are now getting together in cooperatives to improve their production standards to meet WFP requirements.
Today we are encouraged by the many efforts of governments, NGOs and consumers all coming together to better our world. Cause marketing programs have a role to play, and can make an important difference in changing the world.