Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Online Cause Marketing: Do Well by Doing Good

Post by Vivanista

Bruce Burtch, an entrepreneur in the world of cause marketing, summed up his work in five words: “Do well by doing good.” Cause marketing is a mutually beneficial, cooperative effort between a business and a nonprofit organization. In this way, nonprofits receive exposure and support while corporations simultaneously promote their business. In 1976, the Marriot Corporation partnered with March of Dimes for one of the first true cause marketing campaigns. Marriot sought to promote the opening of their theme park, Great America, while March of Dimes hoped to greatly increase fundraising by the program’s deadline. The end result? The most successful promotion in the history of Chapters West of the March of Dimes and a record-breaking opening for Great America.

But cause marketing isn’t just a thing of the past. In 2009 alone, $1.57 billion was spent on cause marketing. And as marketing, communication, fundraising, and shopping transition to an entirely online world, applications like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have become the new tools of the trade. Thinking about starting your own experiment in online cause marketing? Examine it from the perspective of both nonprofits and corporations and learn from the experiences of previous partnerships. Finish off with some general tips for online cause marketing and you’ll be doing well by doing good in no time!

For Nonprofits:
First, nonprofit organizations must understand that both parties are equally important in a cause marketing relationship. In the same way that nonprofit organizations couldn’t accomplish many goals without a corporate partner, businesses need nonprofits to succeed. For example, nonprofit organizations have expertise in areas that corporations find crucial. Who better to decide where money should be spent than the workers who are on the ground facing the issues everyday? Therefore, nonprofits should feel empowered. However, in fulfilling their obligations to a corporate partner, an organization must critically assess what they can offer and potentially shift their approach in order to maximize results. And in a corporate world where all that matters is the bottom line, nonprofits must discover ways to measure and report their impact in order to prove that cause marketing is a worthwhile strategy for both parties.

When it comes to online cause marketing in particular, the success of a partnership depends mainly on the nonprofit’s activity in the social media world. Businesses look for nonprofits with a strong base of followers and support, but more than that, they need a partner who can mobilize support to actually create change.

For Corporations:
Businesses are now realizing is that social good motivates consumer change. A recent study found that 89% of Americans (ages 13 to 25) would switch brands of a similar quality and price if one was associated with a good cause. However, with the increasing prevalence of cause marketing, consumers have become adept at detecting PR schemes versus sincere philanthropic efforts. Therefore, it is important for corporations to find a delicate balance between a cause that is relevant to their company but is also meaningful to consumers. Above all, corporations must care about the cause everyday, not just at the time of a transaction. In an article from the Good Works section of Advertising Age, the author summed up the formula for a successful cause marketing partnership from a corporation’s side: “Engage, don’t just sell. Educate, don’t just market. Find a nonprofit partner that makes sense. And if consumer donations are involved, be open and specific about what they are accomplishing.”

Online Cause Marketing in Action
To see how others have put online cause marketing to work in the real world, look for resources like Mashable’s list of “5 Winning Corporate Social Good Campaigns.” They include examples like Crate and Barrel’s DonorsChoose gift certificates, in which customers chose among education initiatives to invest in online using gift certificates provided by the store. Next, check out Target’s “Bullseye Gives” Facebook campaign, which combined crowd sourcing, social media, philanthropy, and a contest. Over a two-week period, Target encouraged its Facebook fans to choose among 10 nonprofits to receive a $3 million prize. And don’t forget one of the most prominent examples of online cause marketing today: the Pepsi Refresh Project. If you don’t know how it works, Pepsi accepts 1,000 new ideas every month to benefit charity. Next, anyone can vote for up to 10 ideas every day. Every month, Pepsi awards grants ranging from $5,000 to $250,000 (totaling $1.3 million every month) to winners in categories like health, arts and culture, food and shelter, the planet, neighborhoods, and education.

Tips and Tricks
Before you launch your own online cause marketing campaign, remember a few crucial tips. First, be aware of your different audiences across different social media outlets. Your Facebook fans may not be the same as your Twitter followers, so treat them as separate entities. Don’t just collect supporters for mere appearances; mobilize them by asking them to vote, join other platforms, donate money, or share content. When it comes to timing, run campaigns for as long as you can without causing supporter fatigue. Sometimes short and sweet is best, as evidenced by one-day Twitter campaigns.

When getting into the nitty-gritty of what social media outlet is the best, it depends on your campaign’s goals. If you simply want to connect with other like-minded individuals and groups to share and learn, Twitter might be best for you. For the ability to send detailed information to supporters and allow supporters to connect more easily, Facebook or Causes on Facebook is the way to go. For filmmakers in the cause marketing world, YouTube can also be an effective tool to motivate followers. And the next big thing in social media? Location-based marketing tools like FourSquare and Gowalla. Since these applications are not as common as Facebook or Twitter, the key is enlisting them, not just waiting for them to join. And since it is projected that in people will use the Internet on their phones as much as on their computers within five years, you can be ahead of the game by learning these tools now.

What tips can you give to Non-profits or Corporations interested in Cause Marketing Online?

About the Author:
Vivanista is a member-based, lifestyle community for fundraising volunteers. Sharing of unique insights, expert tips and a spirit of giving empowers members to improve their own lives and the lives of others.

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