Pillar #1 of the 6 Pillars of Effective Cause Marketing

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Pillar #1 of the 6 Pillars of Effective Cause Marketing

The first of a series of six posts discussing effective cause marketing principals
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At Incite, we believe the most effective cause marketing campaigns are crafted with careful consideration of a company’s consumers, employees and key partners. Here in a series of six blog posts, we demonstrate the importance of understanding the causes and issues that are relevant to these stakeholder groups and present six critical pillars for developing effective cause marketing campaigns.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 10:00pm

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It’s been nearly 30 years since American Express famously launched its campaign to benefit the Statue of Liberty restoration project. This effort, often regarded as the first cause-related marketing campaign, unlocked a penny toward the restoration effort for every American Express transaction made within the campaign period. In addition, for each new card issued, a dollar was given to the preservation of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Over a four-month period, $1.75 million was raised for the statue’s restoration, American Express new card members grew by 17 percent and American Express transaction activity jumped 28 percent. Pioneering campaigns like this helped build the foundation for what has become a $1.7 billion cause marketing industry. (Source: Cause Marketing Forum)

Today, nearly all major brands are aligned with causes, nonprofit organizations and issues, achieving varying levels of success through these partnerships. What are the key drivers behind those varying levels? At Incite, we believe it is the degree to which the cause marketing campaign reflects the missions of the partnering corporations and nonprofit organizations, the campaign’s ability to drive consumers’ engagement and buy-in and the transparency of the financial relationship between campaign partners. Prior to crafting cause marketing strategies and campaigns for our clients, we carefully consider the following six pillars to ensure we set up our clients and their campaigns for success: see graphic #1. While many of these pillars may seem elementary, far too often we see campaigns that fail to address many and sometimes all of these key drivers. How many times have you seen a cause marketing campaign and thought to yourself, or “How does this partnership make sense?” However, when cause marketing campaigns employ all or even most of the pillars we have outlined, consumers become engaged, beliefs become inspired and meaningful actions are incited. In this white paper we will dig a bit deeper into the pillars outlined above and compare examples of campaigns we feel were successful applying these drivers against their not so successful counterparts.

Pillar #1 - The Cause Must Align with Your Brand

Joe Waters at SelfishGiving.com suggests that when a business selects a cause to support, the decision makers must:

  • FOLLOW THEIR HEARTS – If you or your company are passionate about a cause or issue…go with it. This personal commitment will serve you well when communicating your cause alignment to your target audiences.
  • CHOOSE A CAUSE WITH AN ARMY – If you are choosing between two nonprofits that work to address the same issue, align your business with the organization that best knows how to activate its supporters. This will allow you to connect your business with consumers that have already displayed their loyalty and have demonstrated a willingness to get behind your nonprofit partner.

  • LEAD WITH EMOTION – Causes that have strong emotional messages tied to them have the best opportunity to get consumers’ attention and convert them to new customers.

It is also critically important that cause marketers take the time to conduct research. Understand your brand’s audience and test your messaging to uncover any barriers to success. Host focus groups, ask that your consumers complete surveys and listen to anecdotal feedback. Your front-end research will be rewarded with backend sales if you understand that your consumers ARE your brand.

PILLAR ONE SHOWDOWN - Yoplait’s Lids for the Cure vs. KFC’s Buckets for the Cure

To demonstrate and analyze the function of our first pillar – Your Cause Must Align with Your Brand – we’ve chosen to examine two familiar campaigns with the same beneficiary – The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation (Komen).

Komen positions itself as the global leader of the breast cancer awareness movement, having invested more than $1.9 billion in seeking a cure since the organization’s inception in 1982. Touting the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists, the organization works with those affected to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find a cure for breast cancer. Komen generates funds through its signature events, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® and the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure®, and through generous contributions from its partners, sponsors and fellow supporters. Through nearly three decades of purposeful work, Komen has become the largest driver of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer around the globe. (Source: Susan G. Komen for the Cure)

Susan G. Komen for the Cure & Yoplait - Cause Marketing Concept: Purchase Yoplait Yogurt with specially marked pink lids and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure

The Yoplait “Save Lids to Save Lives” campaign has become an annual October event. The ubiquitous pink lids will draw anyone’s attention as they take a trip down the dairy aisle of their local grocer. After purchase, Yoplait donates 10 cents for every lid that consumers send back to the company. To do this - consumers have to enter the redemption code on the lid online and mail in their lids. Consumers are encouraged to put their zip code on the envelope so Yoplait can send a portion of their donation to the local Susan G. Komen affiliate.

According to Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s website, Yoplait has donated “more than $30 million in the past 13 years to Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the breast cancer cause”.

The Score Card: This is an excellent example of an almost perfect fit between brand and cause. Yoplait’s female target market cares deeply about eliminating breast cancer, and the perception of yogurt as a healthy food helps promote a cause trying to improve the health of women who have breast cancer. Yoplait’s donations to the local chapters are also a terrific way to engage consumers by letting them know their efforts will actually help people in their own communities.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure & KFC - Cause Marketing Concept: Purchase specially marked KFC “Buckets for the Cure,” and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

In early 2010, Komen aligned itself with Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) via a “Buckets for the Cure” effort. KFC dedicated special pink buckets to the cause, and KFC restaurant operators donated 50 cents for each bucket purchased during the campaign. Twenty-five percent of the funds raised from the promotion went directly to the local affiliates of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

The Score Card: From a financial standpoint, this campaign was a success, raising a total of $4,249,539 through 5,000 participating KFC restaurants coast to coast. (Source: Susan G. Komen for the Cure) At the time, it was the single largest fundraising campaign to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure. But from a strategic perspective, aligning an unhealthy food product, fried chicken, with an organization whose mission it is to find a cure for a health ailment spawned a negative public relations backlash. The fundraising partnership ended abruptly, and the campaign has not been repeated since.

The term “pinkwashing” has been coined for this type of campaign that calls into question any corporation that appears to be supporting a breast cancer cause for the sole purpose of gaining positive reactions in the press. (Source: Think Before You Pink)

According to a NaturalNews.com article published on April 29, 2010, San Francisco-based nonprofit organization Breast Cancer Action explains their take on the “Buckets for the Cure” campaign as follows:

“We’ve seen a lot of outrageous stuff here at BCA, but we’ve never seen pink buckets of fried chicken being sold to “cure breast cancer.” KFC and Susan G. Komen for the Cure have started a campaign telling us to buy buckets of unhealthy food to cure a disease that kills women.”

“This pinkwashing is especially egregious because KFC, like most fast food chains, is overwhelmingly present in communities that have poor health outcomes. Susan G. Komen for the Cure knows that social inequities affect breast cancer mortality rates. Given this disconnect, we are especially disturbed by this partnership.”

If Komen and KFC were to have conducted front-end research, they may have found that, while their intentions to raise money for breast cancer awareness and research were certainly noble, the overall concept of partnering a breast cancer nonprofit with a product and brand that is often associated with unhealthy eating practices (which indirectly promote cancer) was not a thoughtful strategy. 


Nick Cavarra
+1 (818) 238-6630
Incite - Social Impact Marketing
Keywords: Events, Media & Communications | Cause Marketing | Events, Media & Communications | KFC's Buckets for the Cure | Six Pillars of Effective Cause Marketing | Yoplait Lids for the Cure | cause marketing

CAMPAIGN: 6 Pillars of Effective Cause Marketing