Billions of dollars are spent each year on all aspects of brand and product promotion, the vast majority of which generates little in positive social benefit.
Many would argue why should it, as the purpose of these expenditures is only to sell as many products to as many people as possible. However the emergence of Corporate Social Responsibility in all major business organizations is leading to a rethink and refocus of all expenditures and actions of the organization to maximize the firm's positive social impact.
Cause Branding and/or Cause Marketing are at least two ways in which every company can harness some of the value of these huge dollar expenditures to create positive social change while at the same time still accomplishing, perhaps even exceeding their brand marketing, promotion and ultimately sales goals.
The article Cause Branding and Its Impact on Corporate Reputation by Barkley Evergreen & Partners provides a great introduction to the definitions, history and moving parts in this discussion to quickly bring everyone up to speed.
So the difference between cause marketing and cause branding is for the most part duration, where most cause marketing programs are a limited time effort to deal with specific causes The first example was in 1981 with American Express agreeing to make certain donations to the renovation and repair of the Statue of Liberty based on client purchases.
On the flipside, cause branding relates to aligning and activating your brand to be synonymous and continuously in support of a given cause such as Starbucks with their sustainable coffee supply chain and production efforts.
Regardless of whether you work on a cause branding, specific cause marketing program, or both customers are paying attention and voting with their dollars. In a 2004 Cone Corporate Citizenship Study, roughly 80 percent of Americans already had a more positive image of companies associated with a cause they care about.
And the growing group of Millenials is only reinforcing this trend; "There are significant generational shifts going on," says David Rocha, executive director of Jewelers for Children. "Millennials strongly believe they're the generation that's going to fix the world and are almost demanding social responsibility of some form from the companies they do business with."
These quotes are from an article entitled, Jewelers Embrace Cause Marketing which incorporates a number of interesting approaches to help you incorporate and expand the use of cause branding and cause marketing in your business.
In the article, it is generally recommended that a store spread their cause marketing programs across 3 charities/projects and dedicate 4 to 10 percent of a store's annual marketing budget toward cause marketing.
In our view, especially within larger firms, 4 to 10 percent is not enough and only represents the tip of the iceberg relative to the opportunity for marketers to take a direct role in creating positive social change aligned with the values of both their organizations and customers.
The elevation of the marketing role within the business world and wider society will no doubt reach even greater heights when marketers truly make a conscious effort to fully utilize the many opportunities cause marketing represents to make their marketing dollars matter!
By Jeff Ashcroft, @TheSocialCMO, http://twitter.com/thesocialcmo