Want to be More Successful? Stop Focusing on Cause Marketing

Lately, I've been thinking of two things. First, the role of technology in achieving our goals. Second, what the future will be for my favorite tool for corporate social responsibility, cause marketing. I started thinking about technology when Google+ arrived. Many of you have spoken very well of it and I've enjoyed using. But my gut reaction is a loathing that I will have yet another social network to learn, use and update. Another tool that I'll have to lug around but will probably rarely use as I wait for the rest of the world to "catch up." I'm starting to question if being the early adopter is really such a good thing.


On the cause marketing front I've been thinking about Simon Mainwaring's post on contributory consumption. Simon rightfully points out that cause marketing is perhaps the most successful form of corporate social responsibility. It's good to hear someone else say this and not treat cause marketing as a dirty thing - like finding out that your neighborhood store makes most of its money from cigarettes and scratch tickets, not milk and bread.

Simon's goal for corporate giving and cause marketing is ambitious. He believes that "We need many more corporations to participate in a focused and concerted attempt to transform ordinary consumerism into a permanent motor of social advancement."

In the comments section of Simon's post, Bryan de Lottinville, President of Benevity, commented that increasing business and nonprofits partnerships is an "execution" issue, something his company is hoping to address with a donation platform that can be embedded on business (mainly shopping) web sites.

Bryan is hopeful that technology can "fix" cause marketing and achieve Simon's vision of supercharging consumer giving.

I love Benevity, but piling on the tools is not the answer.  A nail gun is better than a hammer but not if you're pouring concrete.

But that's what companies and causes try to do every day.

We have all these tools, but we don't know how they work, or what they're for. Or we expect them to do things they can't do. A hammer doesn't make a home. Its job is to pound in nail. It's a tool. But we wield it like Thor's hammer expecting wonders.

We need to set aside our tools and focus on what will truly build our success. Only then can we choose the right tool for the work ahead.

  • Take a good look at your brand. It's the number one predictor of cause marketing success. I've learned the hard way that cause marketing doesn't build brand and technology will mostly just communicate it.
  • Analyze your assets. What is it about your cause or company what makes it truly special, unique. What do you have that others would die (or give you a really good fight) for.
  • Focus on things that work - the tangible, the measurable.
  • Work on developing your story.
  • Build your foundation first before you try to construct or innovate anything.
  • Stick with the basics. They work!
  • Start with ideas. They'll drive your success better than any tool.
  • Focus on a lasting value. Something that shines through and permeates everything you do.

With your help, I'm sure there many other things we could add to this list.

A house divided against itself cannot stand. Cause marketing and technology are tools that need to be backed by ideas, purpose, identity, results and values. When we say a house has "character" we recognize the craft and art of the maker, not the tool that made it.

What will you be, a builder or a hammer?