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Cause Marketing Basics

  Posted in Marketing on Feb 10, 2011 by     0 Comments 
Cause Marketing Basics
Were you asked to vote in the Pepsi Refresh competition? When you checked out at the store, did the person at the cash register ask if you wanted to give $1 to MS? When you were at a Chiliís restaurant in October, did your kids create a pepper? Did you wear pink last fall?

If so, you were part of a powerful, growing trend called cause marketing.

Iím an accidental cause marketing professional. It happened shortly after helping found the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation. We were approached by FedEx with a request to deliver the official Christmas Tree to the White House. We convinced them to help us deliver trees to military families in what is now known as Trees for Troops.

Suddenly, I discovered I was managing a large, award-winning, national cause marketing program. And, over the last five or six years, Iíve had the opportunity to expand my knowledge about cause marketing.

This initial article is designed to establish a basic understanding of cause marketing.

Cause Marketing is a partnership between a for-profit company and a not-for-profit organization through which both parties engage in activities for mutual profit. Note: cause marketing is not philanthropy. Although it has philanthropic aspirations and goals, itís better described as marketing, and, in some ways, a business.

Most nonprofits are seeking new sources of funding to fulfill their mission. Companies are seeking ways to give back to meet their corporate social responsibility mission. Consumers say they are more likely to buy products from companies that support their causes. And, employees say they want to work with companies who support causes they support.

Cause marketing comes in several different forms. Each campaign selects the tools that best fit the goals of the partners.

Here are some typical tactics shared by Joe Waters of the Boston Medical Center:

Point of sale/Pinups: Think of the MDA Shamrocks. When a cashier either solicits a shopper for a donation (active cause marketing) or signage is prominently displayed at the register to encourage the shopper to make a gift (passive cause marketing), thatís point-of-sale.

Purchase or action triggered donation: When a consumer buys a product or service (like a latte at Starbucks on World Aids Day) and a donation (5 cents) is made to a cause (Product Red), thatís a purchase-triggered donation. Sometimes instead of a purchase, a donation is made when the consumer performs some type of action. For example, Macyís donated a dollar to the Make-a-Wish Foundation for every letter to Santa dropped into their special letter boxes at Macyís stores.

Message Promotion: This is when a business puts its resources to work to promote a cause-focused message. David Hessekiel at Cause Marketing Forum has a lot of great examples in his Halo Award Archive.

Employee Engagement: This is when a company leverages its workforce for social good. I think of Home Depotís Partnership with KaBOOM! to build 1000 Playgrounds in 1000 Days, which involved nearly 100,000 Home Depot volunteers.

Digital Programs: The web, social media and especially location-based services will dramatically impact cause marketing and change the way we execute the above tactics. To leave this out is to leave out the future of cause marketing and how causes and companies will partner in the years to come.

Where To Find More Information
1. To learn more about cause marketing, read my blog, Causeaholic and follow me @causeaholic on Twitter.
2. For a great weekly blog written by Joe Waters, sign up for his blog. You may want to start with these two blogs: What Is Cause Marketing? and Cause Marketing 101.
3. For in-depth information and great networking, consider attending the Cause Marketing Forum in Chicago, June 1-3. Details at

What To Expect From This Column
My intent is to provide 5O1CONNECT readers with updated information on cause marketing. This will include case studies, links, readings and Q&A.

Steve Drake is President and Owner of Drake & Company, a leading association management company in St. Louis, MO and an award-winning cause marketer passionate about linking associations with nonprofits and for-profits.

Tags: Cause Marketing  Nonprofit Marketing  Corporate Social Responsibility  Steve Drake  
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