What’s love got to do with it?
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Tina Turner’s iconic song spells out a story of two people who are trying to have a relationship based purely on the physical element while pushing their hearts and emotions aside to avoid getting hurt. It may sound good in theory, but this is an empty, lonely, and painful approach to relationships.
In several recent speaking engagements I’ve talked about “The Anatomy of Cause Marketing.” The reason I’ve been focusing on this is that there seems to be a lot of confusion about what cause marketing is and I believe educating companies and charities on the core principles of cause marketing is important. My talks address six(6) characteristics of cause marketing but there is one crucial one at the core that is indispensible. EMOTION, or in my terms – LOVE-BUYING.
When asked what cause marketing is, the most common answer I hear is usually something like this: “Cause marketing is when a company licenses an icon like a pink ribbon, puts it on a product and gives a percentage to the charity.” That’s completely transactional, not emotionally based in any way.
That definition might have been valid in the past but it no longer captures the cause marketing of 2012, let alone what it will become in the future. If you do a web search on cause marketing, you are likely to find the generally accepted definition as “a partnership between a non-profit and a for-profit for mutual profit.” This definition is valid for many best practice cause marketing programs but even then, I suggest there are already ground-breaking cause marketing programs today that are moving beyond the scope of that definition.
While I agree that most cause marketing relationships involve a mutually beneficial relationship between a for-profit company and not-for-profit organization, the ethos of such relationships are about the emotional equity derived from such partnerships – LOVE-BUYING.
So what’s love got to do with it?
The notion of LOVE-BUYING isn’t unique to cause marketing and it is the goal of almost any brand – to engage consumers emotionally. Apple has mastered this concept. Their customers are engaged at an emotional level that is rare. When you see photos of excited customers leaving an Apple store – holding their product high in the air with the “I got one!” look written all over their faces, you know it’s a perfect example of LOVE-BUYING.
To help strengthen an emotional relationship between a company or product and its audience, cause marketing when activated well and layered on top of good marketing practice is very effective as a LOVE-BUYING strategy. But when done poorly, it can generate cynicism among consumers and the media. It comes down to authenticity – cause marketing must be authentic.
Let’s focus on two ways companies can integrate cause into their marketing to help strengthen the core cause marketing principle of LOVE-BUYING:
1. Champion a cause as part of your core business model
One of the best and most simple examples of core business cause marketing is at TOMS Shoes. It’s really a social enterprise. When you log into the TOMS website, the first thing you see is “With every pair you purchase TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. ONE FOR ONE.” Not every company can build cause marketing programs that are as simple and at the core of their business, but it’s a great example to hold up as one that makes an immediate emotional connection. TOMS truly builds in LOVE-BUYING into its business model in a remarkable way.
2. Champion a cause as part of BORROWING emotional equity from a respected not-for-profit
This is a more traditional model of cause marketing and one that is presented by one iconic American retailer. Macy’s champions the mission of Go Red For Women – both from an awareness and fundraising perspective. But they don’t simply pay a portion of sales to American Heart Association in exchange for marketing rights to the Go Red For Women trademark. Macy’s champions the cause in more than one way and in my view, their current campaign is worthy of some applause.
- Macy’s pays a rights fee but they also help drive donations to American Heart Association by urging its customers to donate to the charity to help fight heart disease by making a donation.
- And tied to Macy’s own financial contribution, they entice customers to participate in a “Wear Red” promotion by giving an extra 20% off when customers wear red to the store or when they shop online.
But it is also about awareness:
- Macy’s champions the cause of heart disease in women and nails its colors to their mast by using language in their marketing materials like, “Make it your mission to fight heart disease in women.” How different this is than many of the partnership phrases I see today like “proud supporter of XYZ charity” which is a very weak proposition.
- Macy’s also helps distribute awareness information like the short film called “Just a Little Heart Attack” starring Emmy-nominated actress Elizabeth Banks. It’s hard hitting, but a very effective message aimed at boomer women to “listen to their heart.”
To those of you building cause marketing campaigns, ask yourself these questions:
Is the partnership your are developing with a not-for-profit purely transactional based, where you pay a license fee, acquire a logo or iconic trademark which you then place on your product or marketing materials and expect consumers to love you? Or are you looking more deeply at how you can create an emotional relationship with your consumers because they see that you are a true champion of the cause?
My CHALLENGE to those of you building future cause marketing campaigns is this:
Take a little more time to think through your marketing strategy and build in that authentic “champion of the cause” thinking, in order to show consumers you truly care about the same things they care about. That’s when cause marketing can begin to transition your brand to LOVE-BUYING.
Tags: American Heart Association, cause marketing, cause-related marketing, Elizabeth Banks, Go Red For Women, Just a little heart attack, Macy's, Macy's Go Red For Women, social enterprise, TOMS, TOMS Shoes