Two of my favorite bloggers, Katya and Nancy, have applied a recent list of 8 Important Consumer Trends by Trendwatching to nonprofits and causes with some interesting results. Here are my thoughts on the impact of these important consumer trends on cause marketing.
Status Spheres. According to Trendwatching, "When dealing with (and selling to) people, everything always comes back to status. In a traditional consumer society, he or she who consumes the most, the best, the coolest, the most expensive, the scarcest or the most popular goods, will typically also gain the most status."
Cause marketing is a status symbol for non- and for-profits and, of course, consumers. If you're a nonprofit with a cause marketing program it really separates you from the pack and says something about how innovative and progressive your fundraising operation is. As far as for-profits go, I've pitched cause marketing as a new, interesting and cutting-edge way to raise money for their nonprofits. If I'm Bono, I tell them, they're Steve Jobs. Thank goodness everyone loves to be cool!
Premiumization. Trendwatching says this one isn't going away in 2008. In fact they predict the "premiumization of everything and anything. In other words, no industry, no sector, no product will escape a premium version in the next 12 months."
And cause marketing is no exception. Check out the million dollar Lazare diamond ice cream cone that will benefit the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. While I'm more of a red-blooded cause marketer than blue-blooded, premium products and programs like this have their place in cause marketing. Expect to see more of them.
Snack Culture. "Embodies the phenomenon of products, services and experiences becoming more temporary and transient; products that are being deconstructed in easier to digest, easier to afford bits, making it possible to collect even more experiences, as often as possible, in an even shorter timeframe." Americans love snack-sized versions of their favorites products. 100-calories bags of Oreos, free subway newspapers, BMW rentals by the hour are all in demand. It's all about instant gratification.
Expect to see more "snacking" at the register of your favorite stores (click and mortar) as shoppers support their favorite charities. It could be by donating a buck for a paper icon, or by buying a product that gives a kick back to an organization, or by using a credit card that gives a percentage of your monthly charges to needy charities, or a debit card that rounds up each purchase and donates the change. On tap for 2008: smaller, faster, easier and cheaper ways to participate in cause marketing programs.
Eco-Iconic. Related to status, consumers will get their status-fix more and more from consuming in a more sustainable manner.
In cause marketing this will lead to two things. First, you'll see more companies striking pacts with environmental groups to show consumers they're "green." Second, the bread and butter mobile programs that dominate cause marketing will begin to phase out the costly and wasteful paper icons most retailers use.
I'm looking at this myself because it pains me to see all the unused mobiles that end up in the trash. Even in a successful program, tens of thousands get trashed. Better planning of resources is one strategy, but what we really need is something better to sell at the register. It could be an electronic mobile or something printed on shoppers' receipts--perhaps with a web site so people can learn more about the organization they donated to.
Brand Butlers. Forget about big advertising campaigns, companies in 2008 will pursue smart, relevant ways to make their products stand out with consumers. Trendwatching gives the example of hotel chain Le Meridian that's marketing itself as a destination for art enthusiasts. As part of its “Unlock Art” program, it has cut deals with local contemporary cultural institutions to allow hotel guests free admission.
You're already starting to see "brand butlers" in cause marketing. Check out this post on how one cruise line has gone "pink" as only a cruise line can. If your mother or sister had breast cancer and you were choosing between two cruise lines of equal price and value but one had a program that benefited Komen, which one would you choose? They both offer a similar experience, but which one cares more?
Make it Yourself. Consumers, especially those from the YouTube generation, want to write their own blogs, make their own videos and air their own podcasts. This year we'll see more small and mid-size businesses follow the lead of big companies and launch their own cause marketing programs.
One goal of mine this year for Halloween Town is to have a haunted house that's built ground-up by civic and school groups with seed money from sponsoring companies in the homebuilding trades. I think one of the best ways to get more people to attend Halloween Town is to involve them in the creation of it. In addition to a heightened interest in the event, a user-generated haunted house will deepen their commitment to the cause and to share their excitement with others.