Men Have Hearts, Too

Cause Marketing Misses the Mark with Male Consumers

By Published on .

Mike Swenson
Mike Swenson
Listen up, brands. It's not just women you can reach through a cause branding program. Men have hearts, too.

From a brand perspective, cause marketing has always been viewed as a predominantly female marketing strategy. For the sixth annual Barkley/PRWeek Cause Survey, we interviewed male consumers to discover their views on cause. The surprising results showed that men are nearly as attracted to cause programs as women.

In fact, 88% of men say it's important for a brand to support a cause; 67% would try a brand because it supported a cause; and 55% would pay more for a brand that supported a cause. Yet, while 75% of CMOs say they now engage in a cause program, 68% say they have no plans to target men with their cause outreach.

This new research has revealed a huge opportunity for male-focused brands to connect with their consumers.

In today's economy you have to build a relationship with consumers that goes beyond selling products and services. The brands that win aren't focused on making consumers feel better about their brand, but are focused on how to help consumers feel good about themselves. And when a brand makes consumers feel better about themselves, the brand will be rewarded.

This newfound opportunity for brands targeting men comes at an interesting time. There has been a lot of social chatter of late about the future of cause branding. One can't help but take notice when the person who is considered the originator of cause marketing says it is dead as we know it. While I agree with Carol Cone, founder of Cone PR and now representing Edelman, I think it is more accurate to describe cause as evolving, not dying.

In June, Ad Age ran a column I wrote under the headline "The Day Cause Marketing Died." Carol and I are essentially saying the same thing. But as we all know, sometimes headlines misrepresent the true story.

Cause is not dying. But there are those who have come late to the party and believe they are doing cause when in fact they are not. For some in corporate leadership today, cause is a box they are simply checking off.

For those companies that are interested in doing more than that, cause is a wide-open arena of possibility to demonstrate to customers, employees and all key stakeholders that they actually do want to make a difference over the long term.

Cause is evolving. The comments from men in this most recent study are yet another example. Every single consumer cares about cause marketing. It's up to brands to find what they can do to make the world better. We all have a responsibility to make sure that cause does not die, but rather continues to evolve. When done right, it is the most powerful form of purposeful engagement a brand can have with its customers.

Mike Swenson is CMO of independent agency Barkley, Kansas City, Mo. The agency's cause clients include H&R Block, Lee Jeans and the March of Dimes.
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