Altruism. Corporate responsibility. Philanthropy. These are often used to describe cause-related marketing, an activity in which businesses join with charities or causes to market an image, product, or service for mutual benefit.
Embracing a cause makes good business sense. Nothing builds brand loyalty among today's increasingly hard-to-please consumers like a company,s proven commitment to a worthy cause. Other things being equal, many consumers would rather do business with a company that stands for something beyond profits.
Powerful Marketing Edge
Cause-related marketing can become a cornerstone of your marketing plan. Your cause-related marketing activities should highlight your company's reputation within your target market. Cause-related marketing can positively differentiate your company from your competitors and provide an edge that delivers other tangible benefits, including:
By choosing a cause you are passionate about, cause-related marketing is emotionally fulfilling. It's a way to merge your profit center with your "passion center" and build a business that mirrors your personal values, beliefs and integrity. If your cause also resonates with your target market, your activities will generate tremendous goodwill and media attention can be its side effect.
Real-World Success Story
Cosmetic dentist Mark McMahon made himself a media mini-celebrity with a thriving practice due in part to his high-profile pro bono work in his community, a strategy that landed him radio and TV appearances in areas where he worked.
McMahon established partnerships with local charities, including a homeless shelter and a shelter for battered women, and offered free dental services to their members. Before each event, he contacted local media and let them know what he was up to. Several TV crews showed up, filmed him treating patients, and later aired the segments on the evening news.
"These events were surprisingly easy to arrange, and every year, they'd help us get press simply by doing these charitable promotions," McMahon says. "Local television news stations loved the emotional element. And it was obviously rewarding to see patients after we'd treated them who'd been in pain for months talking about how glad they were to be relieved of their toothaches."
Another project involved the Delancey Street Foundation, a residential education center for former substance abusers and ex-convicts. "I agreed to treat some of their members' acute dental needs," McMahon says. "I quickly appreciated the media appeal of transforming the appearance of these rough-looking guys with terrible smiles."
McMahon captured the event with before and after photos. "These guys had missing teeth and terrible smiles," he says. "So I had a professional photographer capture before pictures of these guys in street clothes with their snarling faces. After I fixed their teeth, we took more pictures, but this time dressed the guys in suits and ties, now looking like lawyers and accountants, with me sitting right in the middle. The media loved it, and it was great seeing these men looking like new."
McMahon's TV appearances created name recognition. "After I did the story on a local television show, I was recognized in my gym by a masseuse who had seen the show," McMahon recalls. "She said, 'I was thinking about you this morning while I was flossing my teeth.' She became a great source of referrals."