What My 14-Year-Old Brother Taught Me About Cause Marketing

This is a guest post from Erin Palmer. Erin is a writer and editor for the University Alliance. She writes about nonprofit and public sector topics relevant to Villanova University’s Master of Public Administration degree.  The areas covered in the MPA curriculum help improve nonprofit management. 

Teenagers can be pretty apathetic. Adults may blame it on the technology that teens have grown up with, but I don’t think that's it. Honestly, it seems as if every generation complains about their crop of teenagers. I don’t believe that teenagers are uncaring about the world. When you’re a teenager, it feels as if you and your friends are the world.

So when my 14-year-old brother told me about a local teenager named Katie that got into a serious car accident, he looked like the world was caving in around him. He was upset and scared, but most of all he cared. He wanted to help.

Get people to care

Cause marketing is about getting people to care. When people care, they will want to donate their money. They will want to spread the word to others. In order to get people to help, first and foremost you must first get them to care.

Get creative

My brother isn’t the only teenager who was moved to action after Katie's accident. Her friends started a website to raise awareness and money for her. They sell “Go Katie” bracelets and “Pray for Katie” car decals to help with the costs of her medical care. The dance studio that Katie attended sold the bracelets during intermission of its annual dance recital. Katie’s friends even got Tyce Diorio, a frequent judge on the show So You Think You Can Dance to record a message for Katie.

Get the word out

Teenagers also are experts at spreading the word. If they see something they like, they share it. They want all of their friends to see it, all of their family to see it, and they will do whatever it takes to make that happen. They will post it on Twitter and share it on Facebook, but they will also talk about it. They will tell their loved ones to check it out. Cause marketing is more than just creating a Facebook strategy. If you want people to get involved, talk to them - both on and offline.

Don’t give up

One of the most impressive parts of Katie’s story is how resilient these teenagers are. They were frightened, but they didn’t wallow in fear. They harnessed their feelings into action. Cause marketing isn’t just about making people feel. You have to get them to take that feeling and do something with it.

In a couple weeks my brother will be a freshman in high school. He hasn’t chosen a career or a college. Despite his youth, he’s shown me the best example of effective cause marketing. Effective cause marketing is about getting others to care, using creative means to get their help and spreading the word to as many people as possible.

My brother didn’t just teach me a lesson about cause marketing. He taught me that the next generation of causes is already in good hands.