The gang at Think Personality wrote a post last week on the Top 10 Ways to Fail at Cause Marketing. Like the rest of us in the cause marketing world, TP saw the Cone Inc. study that points to dropping cause marketing numbers, which TP attributes to a lack of authenticity in cause marketing programs. I think they have a point. But I worry whenever folks start talking about cause marketing as something that is so special, so unique. Like advertising, public relations, point of sale and word of mouth, cause marketing is another form of promotion, and shouldn't be shackled by quixotic expectations and self righteousness. Take TP's first sure-fire way to fail at cause marketing: You do it because everyone else is. We're not talking about teens using crack here. We're talking about nonprofits building partnerships with for profits for mutual profit. Every organization should be doing cause marketing. If you're not, you're not committed enough to marketing your organization, identifying new streams of revenue and being entrepreneurial. All things, BTW, that will sustain and grow your organization. Yep, everyone is getting into cause marketing. That's a good thing. It's a sign of progress in the nonprofit industry. And progress is a great reason to do something. This is one foot race you don't want to sit out.
TP's second sure-fire way to fail is to Pick a cause with no connection to your company. I guess you can call this Garanimal cause marketing. I work for a hospital so I should only partner with companies with a health-related connection. I have a different strategy: My favorite color is green so I only partner with companies with money. Here are some of the "health-related" companies I've worked with: Staples, Valvoline Instant Oil Change, Finagle A Bagel, iParty, Shaw's Supermarkets. If you can align your nonprofit with a company with a connection, that's great. But don't let that stop you. And if you're on the corporate side picking a cause marketing partner, remember two things. First, consumers are more concerned about how you're helping and less about who it's for. I know because I've been raising money for an unknown Boston hospital up and down the east coast for three years now. Consumers don't discriminate: a good deed is a good deed. Second, pick your cause marketing partner like you would any other business partner: by personal chemistry and by how much value they bring to the partnership.
A third way to fail is to Be fake or somebody you're not. TP writes: "Your company needs to have an authentic concern for your cause and be on the path to genuine corporate responsibility." Geez, are we talking about a marketing program or a conversion experience? The small and medium-sized companies I work with are interested and intrigued by cause marketing. They want to try it and see what happens with not too many strings attached. That's fine with me. I've raised a lot of money and helped many companies by being flexible and all things to all people. Authenticity is overrated. I hope the companies I work with never figure out who they are and what they really care about. I'd rather have them accept the truth we've agreed on. It's better for business.
Lastly, according to TP, your cause marketing program will fail if you Do it just for the money. If you're a nonprofit and doing it just for the money, you can't fail because you'll be doing the right thing for your organization, even if you don't raise a dime. If you're a company who's only interested in cause marketing for the money, call me. You wouldn't be the first company to call with one thing in mind. And you won't be the last to end up falling in love either.