The PR Benefits of Cause Related Marketing

In the era of the socially responsible consumer, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a hot topic. There are numerous surveys that reveal how employees, investors and consumers view a company’s cause-related marketing. According to one survey, half of consumers say they’re likely to buy from companies they view as responsible, and 61% perceived that a company’s motive for social responsibility was a genuine desire to help others.

For the purposes of this blog, I’m talking about cause related marketing (CRM) as a subset of CSR. Essentially, it’s an effort between a business and a non-profit to raise money and awareness of a good cause.

Here are a few well-known and hugely successful examples:

Innocent and Age UK: The Big Knit

The familiar little woollen hats of Age UK and Innocent’s The Big Knit campaign are very much in keeping with the quirky, homemade image of the incredibly successful smoothie brand. However, there is substance as well as style in this partnership. Aside from money raised, the campaign has engaged Age UK’s service users in knitting the hats, bringing people together in knitting groups and helping to tackle social isolation. The focus of The Big Knit is keeping older people warm in winter, and the hats have been a fun way to raise awareness of this often-forgotten group. A donation of 25p is made to Age UK for each behatted bottle, and since 2003 The Big Knit has raised over £1.75 million.

Women’s Aid and The Body Shop

The Body Shop has never been afraid to champion causes that other companies tend to shy away from. Their campaign with Women’s Aid ran from 2004 to 2008 and inspired similar partnerships in 16 countries around the world. While other partnerships may have raised more money – this campaign still raised an impressive £600,000 – its key aim was to raise awareness of domestic violence. The main cause related marketing product was a mint lip balm which had the slogan ‘Stop Violence in the Home’ printed on it. This was an arresting message on such a common household beauty product. As well as donating £1.50 from each lip balm and other products sold, The Body Shop also produced a ‘Survivors Handbook’ for Women’s Aid and carried out research into attitudes to domestic violence, showing that their commitment to tackling the cause was more than mere tokenism.

Moral obligation and great for PR

Not only is cause related marketing a moral obligation for businesses today; it’s a great driver of brand awareness, good for your company reputation, and it can generate some fantastic PR. But if you want to be successful, its vital to choose the right charity, set out a long-term strategy and get your staff and investors on board.

A successful CRM campaign takes planning, passion, collaboration and creativity. Here are a few things to consider when planning yours:

Find out what moves your employees

If your CRM campaign is going to work, you need buy-in from your employees and stakeholders. Why not ask them which causes interest them and why? You could run a company-wide survey or start a conversation in a company meeting to understand what they’re passionate about. If you consult your employees, they’re more likely to support the cause.

Choose a cause that fits with your brand

Some of the most successful CRM campaigns have existed between causes and businesses that are somehow related. For example, alcohol companies often promote designated driving campaigns and an associated charity. This takes away some of the stigma while also promoting a positive cause that is directly impacted by their company. Another example would be if a pet food company supported no-kill animal shelters; most likely their target audience is animal lovers, so it makes sense for them to support shelters. Your cause related marketing probably won’t work if your company chooses an obscure cause that isn’t related to your product or service in some way.

Bring people together with a fundraising event

If you’re looking for a high-profile way to support a cause, a fundraising event could be the way to go. Events can include anything from a 10K run, or bike-a-thon, to a talent show or quiz night. Keep in mind, the more creative you are with your event, the better the results are likely to be, in terms of profit and PR.

If you want some inspiration, just look at the BBC. They organise three major fundraising events each year that raise millions for worthy causes in the UK and abroad: Children in Need, Comic Relief and Sports Relief.

The next steps

For cause related marketing to work and for the benefits to be realised on both sides, an open and trusting relationship is non-negotiable. The charity or cause must feel confident that your organisation has their best interests at heart and that the relationship is a transparent one.

If you want some help with your CRM campaign and advice on optimising it for media attention, get in touch now.

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