Supporting a Cause in a Challenging Market

Doing Good Can Still Strengthen Your Brand and Your Business

By Published on .

Steven Martin
Steven Martin
Putting your company's resources into supporting a good cause can help increase sales. But is it a wise investment during a down economy? Research indicates that a corporate cause-related marketing program can help build awareness and increase sales while demonstrating a company's social responsibility to its customers -- a key differentiator in our challenging economic environment.

According to recent studies by Cone, a leading agency in cause-related branding and marketing, 83% of Americans say that companies have a responsibility to support causes, and 79% are more likely to switch from one product to another (price and quality being equal) if the product is associated with a good cause.

At City of Hope, where I work, our cause marketing revenue is showing stronger returns now than it has in a so-called average economic climate. Research indicates that younger generations believe strongly in the importance of corporate social responsibility, and that consumer attitude is not a fluctuating fad. Brands that recognize the value their consumers place on corporate behavior and the leverage cause-related marketing programs can offer are the ones poised to succeed in any economy.

Marketers should consider three key elements when building a cause-related marketing program:

  • Seek a natural marriage between your product or service and a charity's mission. Seamlessly linking your company to a cause will lead to a true emotional connection between consumers and your cause. As marketers, we know the power and importance of such a connection when building consumer loyalty. An affiliation with a cause helps meet that objective.
  • Research your potential cause partners thoroughly. You must feel confident that your efforts are "doing good." A charitable partner must have a proven track record of judicious stewardship of funds raised, credibility and accountability. The reputation of your cause partner will affect the public's perception of your company.
  • Select a cause that management and employees can embrace. Then make the cause part of the corporate DNA to encourage employee loyalty toward the cause and a sense of pride for employees that their employer cares for the greater good. Your employees can be some of the most effective advocates for your charity of choice if they truly embrace the mission.

We've had year after year of success partnering City of Hope with top brands that believe in our mission to cure and one day prevent cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Choosing a cause-related marketing program is not simply a charitable donation. It is a crucial element to the marketing mix that can potentially affect the growth of a brand's business while positioning the company as an advocate of corporate social responsibility that consumers today have come to expect.

Steve Martin is associate VP-marketing at City of Hope, a research, treatment and education center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Located in Duarte, Calif., just outside Los Angeles, City of Hope is recognized worldwide for its compassionate patient care, innovative science and translational research, which turns laboratory breakthroughs into promising new therapies.
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