Cause Marketing’s Future Is Engagement Through Social Media

In the last 25 years cause marketing has created greater awareness of brands, nonprofits and the marketing method itself. Cause marketing has proved itself and future generations appear to be even more supportive of cause efforts. After hearing about a corporate-charitable partnership 88% of Millennials would be likely to switch from one brand to another brand if the other brand is associated with a good cause (compared to an average of 79% for all adults). They also are more likely to donate their money, participate in an event and volunteer compared to all adults. So the future looks bright, but sometimes too much success can cause backlash.

On the other hand, cause campaigns have flooded the market creating terms like “pinkwashing” referring to seemingly unrelated products like floating beer pong tables using pink simply to sell. Skepticism over pink products has grown into an entire organization and website called “Think Before you Pink.” Simply being pink or red will not be enough in the future. To stand out and get buy-in, successful cause campaigns will need to demonstrate genuine commitment to the cause by providing new ways for consumers to get involved.

That future involvement lies in social media. The interactivity, engagement and transparency that social media allows enables consumers not only to support cause marketing campaigns but to help shape them. Funny videos are one way to create guerilla marketing, but giving people a cause that they care about increases the pass along factor greatly. Cause marketing combined with social media turns word-of-mouth into crowd sourcing – a more powerful medium. Crowdsourcing taps members of the general public to perform important business tasks like research, product development, and marketing. Cause marketing has access to this powerful tool.

Moving beyond traditional media to engagement is something Pepsi Refresh did in the 2010 Super Bowl. They ditched their expensive traditional Super Bowl ads for a cause marketing plan built on a social media. Instead of spending millions on commercials, Pepsi created the online cause marketing campaign that asked consumers how the company should give away its grant money. People all over the web began spreading the word about the campaign encouraging others to vote for their cause via the likes of Twitter and Facebook.

Social media also provides opportunity for research, recruitment and service. Companies like Comcast and AT&T use sites like Twitter as a customer service tool turning negative comments into positive customer service experiences. Why wouldn’t cause marketing be able to benefit from the same? Everyone was impressed with the money the Red Cross raised for Haiti with their texting donation campaign, but how sustainable is that support after the news coverage has died down? Monitoring Twitter for talk about issues your cause campaign helps provides opportunities to engage and recruit new supporters already interested in your cause. TV, magazines and direct mail can’t deliver that kind of targeted audience.

What does the future hold? Many are aware of cause marketing. Now it is time to engage them through the Croudsourcing power if social media.