“Any person who contributes to prosperity must prosper in turn.”
On one hand, in our capitalistic society companies are in the business of making money and providing their shareholders with maximum returns. Period. This statement of fact is so deeply ingrained in the American mentality there is really nothing wrong with it. But these same companies are owned by people, employed by people and it’s people that consume the companies’ products and services; people who make up communities, countries, shareholders of the world at large. So just as people live their lives, ultimately measured in their short time on this planet by the human footprint they leave, it is up to us as individuals to fight for injustices and help those less fortunate. This line doesn’t blur when we arrive at work or take on our roles as consumers. We don’t leave behind (or shouldn’t have to) our altruistic values and compassion in our quest to make a living. For the same reason that highly influential people have the capacity to make the biggest impact on our society and because our capitalistic society functions as it does, companies have a social responsibility to support causes and bring about positive change.
Cause marketing can be defined as an alliance between a business and a charity to market an image, product or service for mutual benefit. Research has shown time and again that consumers will support a company in their endeavors to raise money for a cause they believe in. Companies benefit financially through their associations, charities benefit from increase cash flow and volunteerism, and consumers benefit because they are doing something for the good of humanity. This increasing marketing trend was born out of an American Express campaign to raise money for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty in 1983. The company donated 1 cent for every purchase made with their card. The campaign raised $1.7 million for the renovation, but even more spectacular was the fact that card usage increased 28%.
Let’s say I go to Wal-Mart to buy soda and say I really don’t have a true brand preference. The Coca-Cola display informs me that for every case of soda purchased, 15 cents will be donated to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. I’m a mom, why not. Even if Coca-Cola is slightly more expensive than Pepsi, I feel good reaching for the Coke. Maybe even the next time I buy soda, the expression of goodwill might stick with me and I’ll purchase Coke again. Coca-Cola realized a 490% increase in sales over a six week period at Walmart stores in 1997 during this actual promotion.
Furthermore, a 2007 study conducted by Cone, Inc. found that:
* 92% of people surveyed stated they have a more positive image of a company that supports a cause they care about.
* 87% are likely to switch from one brand to another if quality and pricing are the same, but the other brand is associated with a good cause.
Statistics show that people care and people care about companies that care. In another example, Dollar Rent a Car joined forces with the Special Olympics in 1993, donating $1 to the nonprofit for every car booked during this six week campaign, resulting in a 25% increase in booking.
Not only does cause marketing have the potential to distinguish a company from the competition, it also has the potential to increase brand and customer loyalty. Furthermore, it has proven to have a big impact on employee morale, loyalty, productivity and teamwork. Let’s say that I’m a graduate student from a top university considering job offers from two corporations. Although the opportunities are comparable, one of the companies is perceived to support causes I relate to. So which would I choose? Actually, a 2003 study of MBA graduates from 11 top US and European business schools found that 97% of respondents would be willing to give up a certain degree of financial compensation to work for a company reputed to be socially responsible and ethical. The respondents claimed that they would sacrifice an average 14% of expected income!
There are hundreds of other great examples of cause marketing, but in conclusion, I’d like to leave you with two of my favorites:
Whirlpool has joined forces with Habitat for Humanity, donating a refrigerator and range to every Habitat home built in North America. Thousands of Whirlpool employees volunteer for the organization every year.
How about an entire business model founded on the principle of giving? TOMS Shoes donates one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold.
Check next week to learn how you can incorporate cause marketing into your business model, even if you are a small business.