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Cause Marketing Campaigns as a Mechanism for Social Equality

Unequal distribution of resources means that social inequality affects virtually every social community across the United States. Social inequality is an issue with immediate consequences and no immediate solution — one dictated by widespread income inequality, where the world’s richest individuals make roughly nine times that of the world’s poorest across the globe.

The poverty cycle reinforces elements that can keep victims of social inequality trapped for generations, until intervention helps break the sequence. Though 9.2% of the world lives on $1.90 a day or less — down from nearly 26% in 1990 — the World Bank indicates that 2021 might see as many as 150 total individuals experiencing extreme poverty.

As a legitimate force against poverty and its influence on social inequality, cause marketing leverages activism to foster positive change.

What Is Cause Marketing?

Commonly expressed as “cause-related marketing,” cause marketing occurs any time a company supports a charitable or goodwill cause, and receives marketing benefits from the campaign. Often, the company will maintain similar values as the organization or the cause it is supporting.

For example, an athletics brand could sponsor a race to raise money for a leukemia research charity. The charity competition will likely include the sponsor’s name in the race, where branding across participant shirts, finishers’ medals, the finish line, and other locations will serve as strong cause marketing.

Companies that partake in cause marketing campaigns do so not only to support charitable causes they believe in, but also because they believe that their efforts will help cultivate customer awareness and drive increased purchases. Successful cause marketing can also greatly increase public perception of brands, providing customers with one more reason to purchase a sponsoring company’s products over the competition.

Successful cause marketing campaigns can greatly impact local community members. A company’s sponsorship of local, national, or international charities has the potential to help lessen the impact of social inequality on impoverished communities.

Capitalism and Cause Marketing

Genuine cause marketing can yield positive impacts for any business, in both reputation and total sales. Just as easily, insincere cause marketing can compromise a company’s public standing and draw societal criticism.

Sometimes, companies can make poor decisions when deciding which causes to support. This can lead to several issues, many of which can result in a damaged public reputation. For example, consumers who donate to a charity, only to find that only 10% of their donation went to the charity itself, are less likely to donate in the future, and more likely to avoid associated brands.

Corporate Responsibility

Modern companies — especially successful ones — wield considerable power. They influence the way that consumers think, act, and spend money daily. Companies, therefore, maintain a certain level of corporate responsibility: a corporation’s obligation to address and minimize any social or environmental impact their operations may have.

Corporate responsibility directly ties a company to its impact on its local community, and on society as a whole. Even businesses that do not create products or offer services should take initiative to improve their community through non-profit efforts, hiring fairs, disaster relief, diversity programs, and other events that help better align social inequality.

How to Conduct an Effective Cause Marketing Campaign

Launching an effective cause marketing campaign can directly contribute to a company’s success, through a series of relatively simple steps. These steps can include:

  • Identify a cause worth your support, one that will directly work to lessen the burden imposed by social inequality;
  • Identify an outreach method that will resonate with anyone who interacts with your cause marketing campaign;
  • Outline taglines, graphics, and content that will resonate with consumers without compromising the sincerity of the campaign itself;
  • Launch a cause marketing campaign that will reward your community and help address social inequality issues;
  • Deploy social media campaigns to expand local outreach and reinforce your commitment to corporate responsibility;
  • Connect with appropriate media, public relations, and news outlets to relay campaign awareness in a tasteful, humble manner.

Companies should also take appropriate steps to account for their industry, and the language their consumers are most familiar with. Improvements to communal social equality — not bottom-line sales — should remain the priority.

Sincere Efforts for Social Equality

Your customers are smart people. More often than not, they can tell the difference between a sincere effort, and a campaign launched for publicity. Consult the below information for specifics on the characteristics of sincere and insincere cause marketing campaigns.

Characteristics

Sincere social equity campaigns are marked by a wide variety of characteristics. These can include:

  • Efforts to connect with, and listen to, the community and identify issues affecting them;
  • A focus on the company’s community, and how that community has been adversely affected by social inequality;
  • A focus on the company’s customers, and how they have been adversely affected by social inequality;
  • Campaign branding that emphasizes the charity and the outcome more than the brand itself.

These and other characteristics help customers and community members alike identify a genuine cause marketing campaign.

Examples of Sincere Efforts

Some of the most successfully sincere cause marketing campaigns include the following:

  • JetBlue’s Soar with Reading campaign, which provides books to children located in lower-income neighborhoods;
  • The Starbucks (RED) campaign, which delivers funding to African coffee communities affected by AIDS.
  • Walgreens’ Red Nose Day campaign, which leverages fundraising to provide impoverished children across the U.S. with basic needs.
  • TOMS’ Shoes for Moving Forward campaign, which delivers one pair of shoes to underprivileged individuals for every pair sold.

Sustainable marketing for your business means launching cause marketing campaigns governed by genuine efforts and sincere owners, which can yield serious good for communities affected by social inequality conflicts.

Examples of Insincere Efforts

By contrast, insincere cause marketing efforts see companies prioritize total profits over genuine community impact. Unlike genuine cause marketing campaigns, insincere efforts can injure a company’s reputation and damage customer loyalty. Examples of insincere cause marketing efforts include:

  • Pepsi’s Live for Now campaign, which incited conflict for implying that racial inequality could be solved simply by providing all individuals involved with Pepsi;
  • KFC’s Buckets for a Cure campaign, which donated $0.50 from every Pink Bucket purchase to Susan G. Komen for the Cure®. Ultimately, consumers protested the efforts as tone-deaf, for attempting to raise money against disease through the promotion of unhealthy foods.
  • Burger King’s #FeelYourWay campaign, which attempted to raise awareness for Mental Health Awareness month with specially-named “DGAF Meal” and “Pissed Meal” entrees, without any further call to action.

Strategies for an Effective Cause Marketing Campaign

Companies that successfully carry out cause marketing campaigns can improve brand reputation, see increased sales, and most importantly, foster positive change in any number of communities adversely affected by social inequality.

Effective cause marketing campaigns are often defined by some of the following strategies:

  • Identifying your intended outcome in the community, and working backward to arrive at campaign ideas that can help you reach those goals;
  • Getting your employees involved in different aspects of your cause marketing campaign, to involve them in any corporate efforts to end social inequality;
  • Deciding on the best time to involve your customers in your campaign, scheduling outreach and launching steps to correspond with that timing;
  • Build and maintain a robust mailing list, for streamlined community outreach outlined by customer segments like location, demographic, or interests;
  • Actively gauge customer feedback during the campaign itself, to ensure your efforts are met with optimal feedback;
  • Find ways to deliver concrete, measurable results to communities in need, whether that’s measured in total items donated, total time volunteered, total meals prepared, or some other quantifiable figure.
  • Make sure your customers know why you’re passionate about this cause.

Some community outreach methods — including direct mail — are better when personalized according to industry. For example, direct mail outreach for personal loan companies can work to emphasize the importance of payday loans. By contrast, direct mail strategies for educational purposes can be optimized around academic admissions schedules. And direct mail materials for solar-related outreach can help you capitalize on the growing popularity of solar leasing.

How Social Equality Benefits Business

Employees and their businesses stand to benefit from cause marketing efforts. Whether that means increased profits, enhanced local awareness, or a bolstered public opinion of your business, improving social equality offers tangible benefits for businesses of all sizes.

One ideal example of the positive benefit social equality can have on business is evident at the highest form of football competition. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers employs one of the most gender-diverse coaching staff across the entire league. Head coach Bruce Arians was even named the 2020 Champion of Equality by the Women’s Sports Foundation, for his efforts to promote social equality — regardless of gender barriers — at all levels of his organization.