The benefits to worthy causes or charities of partnering with big brands are obvious. Charities, such as Oxfam, use partnerships with commercial brands as a media platform and an opportunity to get its message out to the public.
Partnering with Marks & Spencer allows Oxfam to tap into the huge influence the M&S brand has over consumers. Being able to promote their message among that captured audience via this kind of partnership is immensely beneficial to the charity and their work.
However partnerships of this nature can be mutually beneficial to both the charity and brand alike. It bequeaths the commercial brand with a deeper meaning and offers another opportunity for engagement with their customers on a different emotional level.
It can also become a significant part of the brands social contribution policy. Without wishing to sound cynical, tying up with a worthy cause or charity can be a winning formula for brands sensitive to the current climate and worth serious consideration as part of your brand strategy.
4 Top Reasons Why Brands Should Engage in Cause Related Marketing
Whether sponsoring charitable activities or committing to donate profits to a worthy cause, the benefits to brands in aligning themselves with good causes are significant
1. Build Brand Awareness
Building partnerships with charities can make a sustainable difference to the cause but it also enables the brand to raise awareness with a wider target audience. Sponsoring a charitable activity often coincides with providing the brand with significant visibility of their logo and products with an engaged and receptive audience. It also provides a platform for brands that are looking to reposition themselves in the market, and change customer perceptions, with a great opportunity by aligning themselves with the right charity associated with the desired target market.
Charitable partnerships can make the brand more accessible to a wider audience particularly if the brand engages in an experiential marketing campaign. It also enhances a company’s credibility and provides an opportunity to educate the public about their products and services. Product sampling is also a great opportunity to attract new customer attention and commonly used by brands sponsoring charitable sporting activities.
2. Corporate Social Responsibility
Engaging in a strategy of corporate social responsibility through charitable partnerships displays a brand’s desire to make a positive contribution to social issues in the community.
It can also have a positive effect on the internal culture of the organisation. Charity partnerships provide the potential to boost employee engagement, and subsequently improve morale, as well as raising awareness among staff.
HSBC has ties with environmental charity Earthwatch and sends employees to visit projects. ‘It is good for motivation and makes employees more likely to stay with the company and become effective brand ambassadors,’ says Nigel Pate, head of environmental partnerships at HSBC.
It can give a sense of purpose and involvement to employees. It highlights the importance of nurturing the strategy to support not just the corporate image but the wider stakeholders too. There is a sense of corporate pride amongst employees at being associated with a project that makes a positive impact in their world.
3. Differentiate the Brand from Competitors
Aligning your brand with a positive cause engenders a more caring image with customers. In markets where the variances between individual brand offerings becomes blurred, associating your brand with a significant social issue or charitable cause can give your customers a new reason to pick your brand over competitors in the market.
It is a way to communicate something about the brand that is beyond price, product or service. Brands who partner with charities or champion significant social issues often benefit from a boost in sales because, given the choice, customers are more likely to buy a brand that supports a worthy cause over a competitor who does not.
O’Egg is a great example of an Irish brand with modest resources which has aligned itself with ‘Action Breast Cancer’. They operate in a market with weak brand differentiation and yet the O’Egg White Egg product in its bright pink packaging is very much targeted at a female audience. The cause has a very obvious relevance to its target market which has helped raise brand awareness and benefited the cause too.
4. Boost Brand Equity
Championing a social issue or engaging with charities is a worthy way to boost brand equity and invest in a little feel-good-factor. Aligning marketing activity with cause related issues enables brands to build a reputation with their target market and build an emotional connection can help strengthen brand loyalty.
Linking brand support to significant social issues or charities creates an emotive response alongside goodwill. Customers feel they are extending the value of their purchase to include a worthy cause investment and are more likely to be repeat purchasers.
Flora’s support of the woman’s mini marathon shows their customers that as a brand, they care about what their customers care about. They recognize their customers concerns and actively try to support them. Brand loyalty is strengthened and brand equity is boosted when the customer’s affinity with the brand extends beyond the product itself.
(RED) is an example of a long established initiative encompassing the support of some of the worlds biggest brands who have each committed to supporting charitable initiatives in Africa. Each brands dedicates a (RED) product in their product line to the cause.
How to Beat the Cynics
For cause related marketing to work your customer must feel differently about your company and brands as a result of the association. The partnership must be relevant to the target customers in order to be trusted. The Nissan Leaf brand alignment to the issues of global warning, and its threat to the environment, is a great example of brand cause marketing, all of which is very relevant to their eco sensitive core target audience.
For the most part customers know that sponsorship of charitable causes or championing a significant social issue is not a form of corporate altruism but a strategic business move. Consequently brands need to be upfront and transparent as to the corporate motives behind the association.
Partnerships must prove its credibility with customers before making any kind of direct product links. For this to be successful the commitment to the aim of the cause must be sincere. Long-term commitment is needed to create a degree of trust, and show that the partnership is more than just an add-on to other marketing activity.
Arts and charities sponsorships are cheaper than sports sponsorships and can generate profit and brand equity while boosting corporate social responsibility credentials and employee engagement.
In an uncertain economic climate where consumer trust in major consumer brands has been damaged, partnering with a worthwhile cause could be the best investment you make in your brand strategy in the year ahead.
What local, national or global cause could you authentically align your brand with, that would be congruent with your core brand values, relevant to your target audience and genuinely make a difference – show that you really care?