Two weeks ago Network for Good‘s Kate Olsen and I hosted a U-Stream chat to field questions and answer on our eGuide about Cause Marketing via Social Media. Well, we had some video broadcast issues with U-Stream, but managed to capture several questions via chat. Here are those questions and our answers.
If anyone has additional questions, please feel free to ask in the comment section. We’d love to continue the conversation.
Q1. How can nonprofits promote corporate partners’ investments (as part of their CSR programs), in ways that add value to corporations and also resonate with stakeholders?
There needs to be a clear value proposition that works for all parties. That means it takes more than simply offering a $5 donation with every purchase, although, in the end, that may make sense. Let’s look at two examples:
1) KFC and Komen came under fire this year for pink buckets of fried chicken. The fatty food and breast cancer combo did not resonate well for all of its stakeholders. What would have worked (may be not as well for sales) a little better for all parties is pink buckets of grilled chicken. The company gets the responsibility and marketing points, Komen better serves its mission, and non KFC customers may be more inclined to visit a KFC fast food restaurant.
2) Staples and DonorsChoose offers a great cause shopping model. Buying at Staples equals an investment in education, and one the customer chooses. Clearly a win for DonorsChoose and the customer, but also Staples. Why? Because Staples is an office products company. Most of the workforce that needs its products has a college education. Win, win, win.
Q2. What cutting-edge, creative types of promotion would make a nonprofit a leader in this arena?
Geez, that’s a tough question. Promotion and leadership seem opposed at times online. While you can certainly claim leadership, it’s really about serving online stakeholders with valuable content and activities for cause purposes. When you are successful at that, the community often promotes your effort faster than you would. The types of promotion – blogging, social network participation, crowdsourcing – really are a means to the end. Without the core understanding and service to the community, the cause marketing will fall on deaf ears.
So Pepsi’s Refresh, while annoying at times with its constant retweeting and vote for me asks (Geoff’s opinion), succeeds because the participants care enough to submit proposals and get the ideas promoted, and hopefully voted on… Thus promoting Pepsi. Even better for Pepsi is when voters also promote their favorite projects. But if leadership was contingent on Pepsi’s promotion solely, Refresh would not have been a success. It would have been a bad ad campaign.
Q3: What is cause marketing? How do you define it?
At its best, cause marketing is a subset of corporate social responsibility. CSR seeks to benefit a company’s community of interest with philanthropic acts, often in the spirit of the company’s natural interests. So for example, an auto manufacturer would have a natural interest in fostering better education for those inclined in core engineering studies such as math and science, or in supporting science that creates better hybrid vehicles that reduce gas emissions.
Cause marketing ties CSR with marketing by demonstrating to and even involving a customer or stakeholder base in the philanthropic activity. This can be marketing for a variety of reasons. Whether its branding, reputation, or direct sales.
Consider the Dow Live Earth Run for Water. Clearly Dow was trying to reinvest in its the community and reverse some of the past negative effects pollution has created on its brand. While the community didn’t react in an overwhelming positive to Dow’s efforts, it was a beginning first step to better its image, a clear marketing effort with a CSR bend to it.
Q4. What should be the nature of the relationship between companies and nonprofits?
In our opinion, it should be a well reviewed business deal for both organizations. A company clearly has some sort of marketing benefit it would like to achieve. And it is willing to pay for it.
But the nonprofit also has a stake in the game. It needs to decide whether the dollars will make the right impact on its programs and/or mission. It, too, will benefit from branding, but if the marketing crosses a line and conflicts with the larger organizational goals then the nonprofit should make a strategic decision to negotiate or say no.
In two prior examples, KFC and Dow, the nonprofits and causes involved suffered negative brand hits for participating in their respective efforts. Now, the money may have outweighed the negative consequences, but these are good examples of nonprofits that may have negotiated, and possibly could have done more to protect their brands.
Q5. How many cause marketing partners is ideal?
There’s no real limit, but there is such a thing as over exposure. Another question with multiple partners is while marketing may happen, is change occurring? Or are there so many chefs in the kitchen that the food is getting burned?
Again, this ties back to the nonprofit and organizational missions and programs. Does the cause marketing achieve these goals, or is it just energy invested in branding that doesn’t help the larger effort? This should be the ultimate barometer of a yes or no.
Q6. What are recommendations for achieving a good holiday social media campaign?
Holiday social media is critical to a cause’s effort. Forty percent of donations occur in the month of December, while 10 percent occur during the last three days of the year (source: Network for Good).
Allyson Kapin, editor of Care2’s Frogloop blog, suggests that the three most important elements of a holiday fundraising (or any) social media effort are 1) Building an effective email list, 2) building an effective landing page, and 3) storytelling, the heart of compelling people to participate online. The latter part is critical because if your cause is going to make eight or nine asks during the holiday season to cut through the clutter, you need to tell a great story.
Cause shopping may be a great win-win in these situations. Companies, too, are heavily reliant on end of year sales for profitability. So if a consumer can 1) purchase a gift while 2) making a donation, it can become easy. In many ways, this is the ask to the consumer. But without a compelling story, it’s just not going to work well.
An example of a cause shopping experience that achieves the four essentials of cause marketing (suitability, authenticity, transparency and selling point) is the Clinique “Happy Day” each year in December. Last year, Clinique worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters to create personalized holiday cards that embodied happiness during the season of giving. The cards were available to customers in store or online with a $30 purchase of Clinique products – a great tie-in to the cosmetic brand’s “Happy” product line. Clinique made a $350,000 donation to the charity and helped build awareness for the Big Brothers Big Sisters mission and programs. This year, be on the lookout for a new twist to the “Happy Day” campaign on December 10th.