Cause Marketing to Boost Startups and Small Business

There are many benefits for small businesses or startups to engage in cause marketing. For those who do not have resources to run a full marketing program a cause campaign can raise visibility by providing local or even national media attention. It also creates a positive image that provides a competitive edge over the competition. Research shows people will choose products that support a cause over ones that don’t. That immediate customer goodwill created through the cause marketing campaign can translate into long term customer loyalty while engaging, attracting and retaining quality employees. Many Nonprofit’s also hold fundraisers, which can provide small businesses and startups networking opportunities with stakeholders and potential clients or investors. An ad I did for a local restaurant supported local food banks.

Despite not having the funding to take part in large-scale efforts, there are ways a small business or new startup can engage in cause marketing through participation and sponsorship in local charity events or activities. The book Cause Marketing for Nonprofits provides some examples including the participation of banks in the Food Bank for New York City Bank-to-Bank partnership and the Canadian Cancer Society’s daffodils sale through Thrifty Foods.

I found an example of local small businesses using cause marketing in a Jewelry trade magazine. Many jewelry stores are still locally owned and family run small businesses that can benefit from cause marketing efforts. One way is for jewelers to participate in local silent auctions through donations. They bring media attention and goodwill to the business and could turn into longer term cause marketing efforts. Another example is a jeweler who created “Battery Mondays” in an effort to raise money for Jewelers for Children. The jeweler says people specifically come in on Monday to make sure the proceeds benefit a nonprofit. Designating a day of the week to benefit a nonprofit is an effective method to increase traffic and sales on traditionally slow days.

Other suggested small business efforts I found included book drives for local child’s learning centers, support for local museums, field trips for children at local schools or sponsoring children’s sports teams and league charitable events. The local hardware store by my house raises money for Vickie’s Angel Walk – a local nonprofit with a mission of helping families fighting cancer who have difficulties paying their bills during the challenging times of fighting their cancer. The small business owner makes it easy to make a donation to the cause at checkout.

A tech startup version of these efforts could be donating a small amount of new account fees to a cause or nonprofit the target audience cares about. Then get other websites and bloggers to promote it for you. Encourage current and new customers the share the effort via social media.

What cause can you support to help jump start your business?

Toyota Apology-athon

All this press over the Toyota recalls made me think of 1982 Tylenol crisis where people were reported dead after taking extra-strength Tylenol capsules. On of Johnson and Johnson’s crisis management techniques was its quick  and total response. J & J made it clear right from the start that they put people over profit through an immediate sincere apology and aggressive recall action.

Toyota has sent the opposite signal. They were slow to apologize and slow to react. At first they the press couldn’t even track down CEO Toyoda. Not thinking the crisis was important enough he remained at a World Economic summit in Switzerland where he only made a brief comment because the press forced him right before he sped off in an Audi.

He made his first official public appearance only after two weeks of the company facing a growing crisis over the safety and quality of its vehicles. At the press conference he apologized for the problems that led to the company’s recall of more than 8 million cars, but did not announce any solution for brake problems of its popular Prius hybrid. At a later date Toyota ended up announcing additional recalls on the Prius.

Then Mr. Toyoda apologized again but said he was not going to testify before congress. He delegated that responsibility down to the heads of the U.S. operations. But then later he apologized again saying he changed his mind and would testify. If decisiveness builds confidence Mr. Toyoda is doing the opposite.

Instead of acting quickly and aggressive to show that they put public safety first Toyota has taken a wait and see approach every step of the way giving the public the impression that they will only do what the public forces them to do to protect every bit of profit it can.

Instead of Toyota affirming their company’s concern for their customer’s safety with immediate apology from the company’s leader and aggressive action they now have that president testifying before Congress defending his company’s reaction to the crisis and trying to convince the public that his repeated apologies are sincere. But I don’t think the public is fooled. Actions speak louder than words (“Toyota Chief Hammered by Lawmakers Despite Apology” 2010).

How much money and time did the company invest to get Five Star Crash Ratings? What is it worth now?

Can Direct Response Be Creative?

You’ve seen this kind of ad – huge logo, direct no frills headline, star burst and a lot of information and photos packed together. Does direct response have to be this way?

In Adweek a couple of years ago a direct marketing practitioner John Livengood talk about the perception that direct marketing creative is not very creative compared to general advertising. Cost cuts in direct marketing resulted in low production values, creatives with poor conceptual skills, bad design sense and copy that feels like a used car pitch. But times are changing as brand/awareness advertising is feeling pressure to become more accountable while direct marketing agencies are being pressured to deliver more conceptual thinking and brand-building work

But others say stick to the basics. Professor John Philip Jones’ says that direct response creative should not use the puns, plays on words, jingles and jokes of general advertising. Direct response advertising can’t take a chance in not being understood in an effort to be humorous or entertaining. It must have simple, straightforward statements. Go for the “no-brainer” creative solution instead of reinventing the wheel. Direct response is more of a science where you use the words that have worked in the past like “free,” “announcing,” “new,” “now,” and “you.”

GEICO Direct is an example of a direct response success story. It uses humorous ad appeals and innovative television media buys to sell car insurance direct. The campaign was created by general advertising agency the Martin Agency and won many creative awards while selling a lot of car insurance. Maybe being different and trying new things can really pay off. What is your viewpoint on direct response creative?

Which Advertising Medium Is best?

Television gives you an opportunity to speak to a captive audience that is more apt to fully tune into an ad. In a similar way radio offers an improvement over print in that the listener is captive to the message unless they switch stations. On the other hand, Newspapers are typically scanned by the reader. If an ad is seen at all, the headline will be glimpsed and the copy largely ignored. Readers tend to peruse magazines more carefully than they do newspapers, but the ads are flipped by.

Maybe we can gain more insight into this issue by looking at people’s views of the different media. A 2005 post-election survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press showed television far outstripped newspapers as a primary source of information. In a Boston Globe article Lance Morrow, a professor of journalism at Boston University, argued that print is a thinking medium and the visual is not. While Thomas Cooper, a professor of media arts at Emerson College said viewers can get more complete news with the explosion of available television channels. Does this mean print or TV is more involving?

A few years ago, the Wharton School of Business at Penn did a study to track the return-on-investment experienced by small businesses as a result of advertising. The businesses were monitored and measured for seven years, but only three conclusions were reached: 1. There is no direct correlation between dollars invested and results gained. 2. Results are inextricably linked to the message. 3. Results increase with repetition. The study found that ads that speak to the heart of the customer and touched a nerve were the ones that turned little companies into big ones. Everything hinged on the message. Is it predictable and boring? Is it believable? Is it relevant? The study also found that once you identify a message that generates a positive response repetition works – with study participants seeing double and triple growth in years two and three (Williams, 2009).

The Wharton study doesn’t tell us which media to use, but it does tells us that success all hinges on your message. And I believe the same applies to new media.