I’m all torn up about cause marketing these days. Not so much about whether it is good or bad. Anything done to benefit the development of humanity is innately good. More importantly, are corporations and their partnering non-profits doing enough to inform consumers about the impact of their contributions to cause marketing campaigns, including their purchases (e.g. Tide Loads of Hope), social media engagement (e.g. Giorgio Armani’s Acqua for Life), and voting (e.g. Pepsi Refresh)?
Supporting causes is no longer a trendy buzzword in the executive conference room. It has become an integral component of business strategy. Increasingly, consumers are expecting the brands they purchase from to be socially responsible and support environmental and humanitarian needs. 83% of Americans “wish more of the products, services and retailers they use would support causes,” as revealed in Cone’s 2010 Cause Evolution Study.
But we’re not satisfied with just knowing the brands we love support a cause. A staggering 90% of consumers (i.e. more than 278 million people in the U.S.) now want companies to tell them the ways they are benefiting a cause, the study reports. With the massive influx of cause clutter, consumers have naturally become cause-savvy. They want to know the specific impact the program will have on a cause: financial, social or environmental. And I expect that corporations will risk losing customers, and with it revenue, if they do not offer consumers the precise impact of their cause marketing campaigns.
Here is a closer look at how 3 cause campaigns are aiming to meet customer expectations by reporting results and impact:
- Background: This online initiative, launched in 2007, invites AmEx card members to submit and vote on ideas for humanitarian projects. Using tools like In last year’s edition, $1.2 million was donated to 6 non-profit organizations.
- Communicating Impact: On their Facebook page, AmEx outlines the winners and the amount donated to each. “Your votes made a big difference. Find out how charities are furthering their efforts with funding from American Express.” More impressively, last year’s winners each are featured in their own video posted on YouTube that details the impact of American Express’s donation. The following video communicates impact best, stating exactly how many people were helped and how.
Member’s Project Winner: Operation Smile
- Background: In 2009, Downy launched a partnership with Quilts for Kids, Inc., to initiate this program that funds and facilitates the creation and delivery of quilts to kids in Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. Five cents per purchase of a specially-marked package directly benefited the cause.
- Communicating Impact: Downy takes a markedly different approach to communicating the campaign’s impact to consumers. To date, the campaign has allowed for the creation of over 20,000 quilts to hospitalized children nationwide. Using the age-old and proven method of storytelling, Downy offers follow-up stories of children who have benefited from the gift of a quilt from Downy and Quilts for Kids. This approach offers consumers a genuine human connection to those impacted. On the flip side, the approach is heavily qualitative and may allow consumers to question the campaign’s financial impact.
Behind every quilt, there’s a story. Read more stories here.
- Background: Pampers and Unicef partnered to launch the “One Pack = One Vaccine” campaign in 2008, enlisting actress Salma Hayek as a spokesperson. Pampers would donate the cost of one tetanus vaccine (five cents) to UNICEF for every pack of specially-marked diapers and wipes purchased in the U.S. and Canada to help provide one tetanus vaccine to a pregnant woman or a woman of child-bearing age in the developing world.
- Communicating Impact: Over 31 million vaccines were donated as a direct result of this campaign. Pampers used a simple math equation to demonstrate the impact of consumer purchases. The campaign’s success is visually portrayed on the campaign website, closing the loop.
Who did it best? Are these campaigns transparent in the way they communicate impact?
Is it enough to tell stories or do we want and need real, hard numbers to tell us how many lives were saved and impacted?