How Local Brands Can Follow in the Footsteps of the National Brands

There’s no denying that more and more brands are incorporating social responsibility into their messaging in order to better society as well as differentiate their brand.  Of course, they likely wouldn’t be doing it at all if it wasn’t also improving their bottom line.

Some say the turning point was 2016, a tumultuous election year that practically forced brands and consumers alike to take sides on a number of issues.   As a result, the 2017 Super Bowl saw a sharp increase in social causes being the focus of several 30-second spots that cost upwards of $5 million.

In fact, according to Adweek, only 6% of SuperBowl ads a decade ago backed a social cause, compared to about 25% this year.  Although the spots may produce feel-good moments, they can also generate controversy.  That same year, Audi’s “Daughter” spot addressed the gender wage gap. However, the carmaker was later called out by critics for its lack of gender equality on its executive team.

But Cause Marketing extends way beyond 210 minutes of broadcast TV during the first week of February.  It happens year-round, in a variety of media and for good reason.

It’s good for PR and sales.

When Patagonia announced it was suing President Trump for scaling back federal monuments and them donating it’s $10 million in tax cuts toward battling climate change, sales increased 7% week-over-week (despite the fact the previous week included Cyber Monday) and generated 15,000 mentions from more than 11,000 unique authors.

Of course, the most notable example of cause marketing is Nike’s campaign featuring firebrand Colin Kaepernick.  Despite critics saying the initial ad was a big risk, conservatives threatening boycotts, and consumers posting photos of them burning or tossing their already purchased Nikes (explain that to me), Nike’s stock hit a new all-time high, foot traffic to Nike stores rose, sales increased by 31 percent and, the ad “Dream Crazy” has been nominated for “Outstanding Commercial” Emmy for 2019.

It enhances goodwill and strengthens partnerships.

Coca Cola partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to create the Arctic Home campaign which raised awareness and funds for vulnerable polar bears facing dwindling habitats as a result of climate change.

The Coke cans included a package code that people can scan to make a $1 donation. Donations quickly amounted to $1.8 million which Coke matched.

But cause marketing is not just for the major brands.  A locally owned business can leverage Cause Marketing to its advantage for the same reasons listed above, plus:

 It matters to your customers.

A new study by Accenture Strategy found that 62% of consumers surveyed want brands to take a stand on issues.

It matters to your employees or future employees.

By 2025, millennials will comprise 75% of the workforce.  And, according to Cone Communications, 75% of millennials said they would “take a pay cut to work for a responsible company,” and 76% would consider a potential employer’s “social and environmental commitments” when comparing offers.  Nearly all (83%) also said they would be “more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues.”

So where do you begin?

Budget to Make an Impact

If you’re a small business trying to gain some exposure, you’ve likely sponsored community events only to be one of 50 logos on marketing materials.  Let’s face it, unless you’re the presenting sponsor, you’re not likely to gain any brand recognition.  So rather than sponsor several small events, make one large donation or commitment to a cause that will make an impact.

 Align with Your Corporate Culture

What are your employees passionate about?  Is there a cause that ties into your mission, vision or values?  If your cause isn’t seen as a match, you run the risk of being perceived as inauthentic.

Resonate with Your Audience

What do your customers care about?  What excites them?  If you’re supporting a cause that they know nothing about, you’re wasting your time.  And if you and your employees are excited about something un-relatable to your customers, that’s a blog for another day.

 Budget Time as Well

Don’t just write a check.  Get involved.  See outcomes first hand.  Encourage employees to get involved.  Brainstorm ideas to raise awareness, increase volunteerism, and drive revenue.

Excite Your Employees

A top-down decision won’t work here.  As stated above, millennials may decide where to work based on the company’s pet cause – but not one that’s not aligned with his or her values.

Don’t Be Modest

Promote your cause on your website, social media, ads and promotions.  In addition to your initial financial commitment, tie in a match to additional funds raised through sales, subscriptions or new account openings. Keep in mind that quantifiable results generate remarkable headlines!

Foster Relationships

Perhaps there’s another non-competitive brand that also shares a connection to the cause.  There might be an opportunity to work together to double outcomes, goodwill, results, and exposure – not mention open doors for other business opportunities.

An Easy Way to Decline an Offer

A small business trying to increase visibility in the community attracts solicitations like chum in shark-infested waters.  However, by owning a cause, you can graciously decline without guilt – unless the solicitor is a client or customer.

Don’t be afraid to make a stand.

As more and more people base purchasing decisions on what a brand supports, how it treats its employees, where its products are sourced  – it’s better to stand for something and risk a few prospects than to lie down and not be seen or heard.

Need help creating your cause marketing strategies?  Contact the strategic branding experts at Electrum Branding.