Cause marketing and social sustainability, Part 2

Cause marketing and social sustainability, Part 2

Even though from the social sustainability standpoint its shortcomings outweigh its advantages, cause marketing has its place in fostering the social sustainability of business. You will do well by doing good.

Using cause marketing for enhancing your company’s People bottom line will require a few adjustments, however. These adjustments will 1) shift the definition of cause marketing, 2) alleviate its shortcomings, and 3) enhance the meaning of cause marketing.

Redefining cause marketing: From tactic to strategy

As beneficial as they are, efforts like Product Red don’t cut it from the social sustainability standpoint if it’s otherwise business as usual for you. Rather than a marketing effort, cause marketing must be elevated to the strategic level. Instead of aiming to promote your company or product, cause marketing must aim to generate social good. A cause must not be an external element of your business – it must be at the heart of your business.

Strategic embedding of cause marketing has several implications:

  • Broader definition. Once it’s strategic, it’s no longer a marketing effort and its aim is no longer to promote your company.Strategic cause marketing embeds a social good in your company’s core business in alignment with its purpose and values. In this definition, an association with a cause or organization is a tactic serving to execute the strategy; promotion of the company is a functional by-product. Cause marketing is a People bottom line strategy.
  • Greater focus. Inasmuch as strategy requires focus, cause marketing requires determining what social good is relevant to your core business and then pursuing that, and only that, social good. A food producer may choose to align with eliminating hunger or healthy diet; an outdoor gear purveyor with restoration of habitat or alleviation of climate change; a consultancy with business education or mentoring. Unlike with investing, where diversification reigns, concentration will yield the greatest benefit in cause marketing, for all parties involved.
  • Long-term outlook. Strategic embedding and greater focus both require playing the long game. You will experience temptations to support fashionable causes, or troubles in partnerships or stakeholder relations. The long-term outlook will help overcome any challenges your strategic cause marketing effort may bring.
  • Responsibility and accountability. Strategic cause marketing permeates all organizational functions the same way the pursuit of your mission does. Your marketing department may be responsible for communicating the outcomes of your cause marketing, but the execution is everyone’s responsibility, with top management as the principal driver. In addition, to ensure it gets done, it must be measured: set relevant measurable outcomes to track your success and make adjustments.

Cause marketing and the triple bottom line

While concepts are empty vessels you fill with meaning, it’s entirely possible that this much redefinition drains the term cause marketing of its original meaning and it needs to be retired, whether you expand it with “strategic” or not. “Corporate social responsibility” or “triple bottom line” are certainly worthy candidates for replacement: both are strategic, and both generate social good in the long run.

This commentary can be found originally at: Sustainable Marketing Blog by Peter Korchnak. Better triple bottom line.