Key Takeaways from the 2012 Cause Marketing Forum Conference – Article 2 of 4

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Key Takeaways from the 2012 Cause Marketing Forum Conference – Article 2 of 4

Cause Marketing Grows Up
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We're posting our Incite team members' key takeaways from the 2012 Cause Marketing Forum Conference. 2 of 4 #CMF12

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Meadow Lake Wind Farm just north of Lafayette, Indiana.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 4:25pm

Cause Marketing Grows Up

The drive up Interstate 65 from Indianapolis to Chicago has to be one of the most mindless, uninspiring drives in all of North America.  Endless patchworks of farmland sleepily pass dotted only by the occasional rest area and truck stop.  The lone bright spot along the way is the Meadow Lake Wind Farm just north of Lafayette, Indiana.  New wind turbines continue to sprout from the fertile soil annually, and it is estimated the “farm” will someday become home to more than 600 turbines providing enough electricity to power more than 250,000 homes annually.

As I made my second-annual pilgrimage to the Cause Marketing Forum Annual Conference from “Naptown” to “The Windy City,” it was the Meadow Lake Wind Farm that got me thinking about how far cause marketing has truly come over the last ten years.  As many of us in the cause marketing world know, this year’s annual conference helped commemorate and celebrate the Cause Marketing Forum’s tenth year of existence (congrats to our friends David Hessekiel and Megan Strand for their amazing work!).  I digress.  Let's get back to the wind farm.  I’ve often seen semi-trucks driving north on I-65 carrying but one of the enormous blades that will soon spin as a critical piece on another of these giant structures.  You see, building just one of these wind turbines is a massive undertaking.  But once built, it can generate sustainable energy for decades.  Much like a wind turbine, the cause marketing programs we build should also be huge, painstaking projects.  When thoughtfully constructed to drive lasting, sustained impact, these campaigns can positively impact brands, nonprofits and, most importantly, people and communities for years to come.

Upon arrival, it didn’t take long for me to realize that there was something different about this year’s CMF annual conference.  In short, cause marketers are getting smarter.  As suggested above, they are crafting campaigns to drive positive community impact first and revenue/donations/goodwill second.  Proctor & Gamble’s innovative “1Pack = 1 Vaccine” campaign partners its Pampers diaper brand with UNICEF.  The initiative has been created and is being executed to literally eliminate newborn tetanus in impoverished African countries.  Now that’s impact. 

I was also impressed by the diversity in the room.  I had the pleasure of joining attendees from both Australia and England during one of the lunch sessions at the conference.  The Cause Marketing Forum has gone global!  In addition, it was obvious that major corporate and nonprofit brands have teams, not individuals, dedicated to their cause marketing efforts.  I think Macy’s had nearly ten representatives in attendance from across the country.

It became clear at this year’s conference that the lines are blurring between the traditional cause marketing model and successfully integrated cause marketing campaigns today.  No longer is cause marketing as simple as a mutually beneficial partnership between a corporation and nonprofit reflected as a “stand alone” effort or something enacted around peak giving periods like the holiday season.  Successful cause marketing initiatives are built on (or sometimes as) the foundation of the partner organizations.  While Coca-Cola highlights its relationship with the World Wildlife Fund during the holidays via its Artic Home campaign developed to help create a safe haven and refuge for the polar bear population, it is dedicated to working with the WWF year-round to help conserve water in priority river basins around the world. 

Additionally, it seems cause marketing and corporate social responsibility efforts are (finally) coming together at national brands around the world.  The unexplained divide that has traditionally existed between a brand’s marketing and philanthropy teams is beginning to lessen.  This is good news for everyone impacted by cause marketing efforts.  Disconnected resources are coming together, and savvy cause marketers are beginning to track and demonstrate (to consumers) the success of their initiatives and efforts.

It was nice to see that we, as cause marketers, have grown up over the past few years.  Long gone are the days of companies working with a different cause or nonprofit partner annually.  Likewise (and thankfully), gone are the days of minimal impact sadly driven by last-minute, weakly structured cause marketing efforts.  While transparency and authenticity continue to be buzz-words in the cause marketing space, the word that most stood out to me at this year’s conference was RELATIONSHIP.  In life, the relationships that we hold most dear we treat with care and respect.  We evolve in those deep relationships; growing, learning and improving along the way.  When a cause marketing partnership is treated similarly, the fruit that the relationship can bare and success generated can yield incredible results.  At this year’s conference it was announced that, through their incredible work over the past six years, Proctor & Gamble and UNICEF have completely eliminated newborn tetanus in Uganda.  Welcome to the future of cause marketing…


Jeremy Smith
+1 (317) 684-2957
Incite - Social Impact Marketing
Keywords: 2012 Cause Marketing Forum conference | Events, Media & Communications | Artic Home Campaign | Coca-Cola | Events, Media & Communications | Meadow Lake Wind Farm | Proctor and Gamble | UNICEF | World Wildlife Fund | cause marketing