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There’s a bad connotation to wearing one’s heart on their sleeve. We often think of it as a weakness or something that we should apologize for, but why exactly is that? Shouldn’t people be honest about how they feel? Isn’t the best communication straight-forward communication? Please raise your hand if you enjoy communication in a beat-around-the-bush sort of way…

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I don’t imagine anyone’s got their hand in the air right now.

It’s a widely known fact that as a brand, your marketing communication should be straight-forward, concise and creative. You’ve got about 15 seconds to get the attention of your audience before they move onto something else. Most people skim and barely read a whole blog post or ad, but there’s a way to get more for your marketing dollars! You’ve got to get to the heart of the matter.

You’ve heard about cause marketing before, but have you seen the research and statistics to back up its exponential value?

  • 90% of U.S. consumers say they’d switch to a brand associated with a cause
  • Six out of ten millennials said that a sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose to work for their current employer
  • 42% of North American respondents reported they would pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact
  • Products associated with causes yield increased sales

Maybe you’re thinking about the food drive your company did last Christmas or the time your CEO drove an initiative to collect money for her favorite nonprofit, but the one-and-done charity efforts, although well-intentioned, will only go so far.

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Cause marketing, when authentically and effectively integrated into your overall marketing strategy, can set your company apart. A deliberate cause marketing plan helps you tell a beautiful and intriguing story to your target market about your company at its core. It also helps develop a healthy company culture that employees are proud to talk about, becoming your best brand ambassadors. It’s really a win-win strategy that if followed consistently, will pay dividends over time.

Here are keys to successful cause marketing campaigns:

Authenticity – Be sure to take time to select organizations you’ll support that really matter to your company. Do the organizations fit a key segment of your clientele? Do several of your employees already volunteer for a specific cause or cause segment? When you select one that really resonates with your core values and beliefs, you achieve a clearly authentic relationship that your audience will recognize and want to associate with.

Partnership – A cause marketing plan isn’t just an agreement for support of a cause by a company. It’s a MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL partnership. When developing the partnership, it’s ok to define what each entity will be responsible for in order to mutually benefit from the partnership.

Example: Your company holds an on-site event to raise funds for its chosen cause organization. The cause organization agrees to hang fliers at their location, sends out word on social media and in their newsletter about your partnership, and also mentions your company during podcasts or other media interviews.

Creativity – Once the partnership is created, brainstorm any and all ways you can work with the cause organization to support them. It is imperative to think outside of the box. When you plan and promote something unusual, it becomes memorable.

Example: You’re a construction company and you’re partnering with a homeless shelter and you want to participate in a drive to collect personal supplies for residents. Instead of simply collecting the supplies, taking some pictures, and then delivering them, maybe employees have a competition by constructing buildings with the supplies before they’re delivered. The photos from the competition would be very interesting.

Strategy – The cause marketing plan should be measurable, consistent and a part of your company’s overall marketing plan. Companies regularly spread themselves too thin in their charitable efforts given that the vast number of charities available to support can be overwhelming. It’s important to have a focused cause marketing plan where you can really make an impact on a key charity or small group of charities that align with your values as a company, and then strategically highlight your efforts to move the needle on your chosen cause. Make sure to set goals ahead of time for engagement in all content related to your efforts, subsequently review the effectiveness and then tweak

Star Power – OK, this one isn’t necessary, but it’s a nice bonus if you’re able to get a celebrity endorser. We’ve seen the first-hand impact of celebrity branding for our clients. Research has found that product sales increase upwards of 20% when the brand is associated with a celebrity and 45% of US adults believe that celebrities can make either a large or somewhat positive difference to issues they are promoting. Can you imagine the impact you can have when associating with a celebrity that cares about the same cause as you and your audience? Mind blowing.

Well-thought-out and executed cause marketing plans including these key elements yield amazing results. Maybe it’s not so bad to expose that soft, beautiful corporate underbelly after all. In fact, the way cause marketing has trended over the last ten years has proven cause marketing is no trend at all. It’s is here to stay. Which means it’s time to stop beating-around-the-bush. Go ahead and pin your company’s heart on its sleeve and wave it around like you just don’t care, because ultimately it proves that you do.