It is Time to Kill Cause Marketing…Not

Recently, I came across an article with the title, “It is Time to Kill Cause Marketing”. Interesting, catchy, provocative. However, it is misleading, although necessary I suppose. Cause marketing does, in fact, need to change and grow. It hasn’t grown for some time. What has grown is possibly the awareness. The effect of that has been a match in a rain storm though. You feel the warmth for a second and then it disappears in a puff of smoke.

Netflix and Chill

I will give the author this; he has a good premise. People do not want to “Netflix and Chill” as the kids are calling it these days. What they want is a long term relationship that you can grow with as it too grows. People, want to be able to pick up the phone and call you up when they are feeling like the world is out to get them. It is just like they do with friends, so think of yourself as their friend. They want you to come running to their aid, arms held wide. Why do you think there are so many articles, pictures, videos, and other media coming across your news feeds that aim to “renew faith in humanity”?

What’s wrong with this picture?

The article goes on to state some issues, mainly the prevalence of one offs and me too’s. I couldn’t agree more that they do need to change those aspects. Really though, so what? Those are definitely issues, you’re right. So, how do we change them? We can’t just state a problem and give no real answer about how to change it, except for, bake it into your companies DNA. First let’s make something clear. Buy one, give one models like TOMS and Warby Parker are great, on the surface that is. TOMS gives a pair of shoes to a kid in need, that shoe is going to wear out sooner rather than later. Then what? Once the kid gets shoes, can he get to a place in his life where he can then afford every next pair after that? Do we have enough information on that and can cause marketing solve that issue well? As I see it, in this moment, the answer is no. It is one thing to weave into the fabric of your business the ability to make change. Yet, don’t forget that we need a why, a how, and a how much behind all that. Companies that I think have truly made a commitment to change in the fabric of their operations are companies like Patagonia, RYOT, Novica, or Kiva. Well, ultimately any company on this list, this list, or even this list.

What we are in desperate need of is real measurement that does multiple things. The first is that it gives us reasoning to why we are doing what we are doing. If your solution is to give a pair of shoes, then as a consumer, tell me why. It isn’t enough for me to feel good because a kid in some village got shoes. I want to know why the answer is shoes. If I buy from you, tell me why. Don’t just take my money and make a run for it. I want to be confident in my long term impact. Give me the exact reason why it is shoes that you are donating. Why not the cotton, rubber, and technical training to make shoes for themselves. If I need to buy more from you or get more involved than buying a pair of shoes once every 18 months, then be upfront about that. The statistics show that I will be happy to buy more from you if that is the case. That is the first step, pun intended.

What to do after we name the problem?

As I pointed out, naming the problem is only the beginning. Next, put together the knowledge behind the problem. Work hard to solve it efficiently and with haste. As a consumer, and a consumer of cause-marketing, it is too easy to promote slacktivism through capitalism. Buy this, feel happy about yourself for a second or two, then buy from me again because, money. The masses want you to ask them to go above and beyond, not to be exploited. That doesn’t mean that you need to tell them exactly how to go above and beyond. They want to know that you trust them and expect them to solve the problem using your corporate resources or products.

Russ is right, this isn’t a transaction, it is a relationship. What that means is you can ask as much from them as they ask of you, but the trust to do so must be there. Oh, and if you want to ask them to do that, you better reciprocate the effort. Next time you ask people to retweet something in order for you to donate a dollar, don’t stop there. Follow up with everyone that retweeted. Ask them why they care about this cause. Ask them to engage with you in other actions like going out to volunteer in a corporate event. Ask them to come up with other ways to benefit this cause. Then as a corporation, put resources behind their ideas. I can guarantee you that they will be more invested, turn into brand advocates, and become a customer for life.

It is all about moving people down a conversion funnel. One conversion funnel to convert people to customers and brand advocates. One conversion funnel to make more impact on the world for the better. That is what cause marketing must evolve to be. A relationship, for better or for worse.

Do you think cause marketing must evolve? Do you think corporations and non-profits alike will benefit as much as we do from this evolution? What are some of the best examples you have seen?

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