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Cause marketing – the idea of aligning your brand with a social cause close to the heart of your customers – really works… but only under a few conditions.
Jon Bon Jovi knows this well. His band is on tour and at each city, Jon is heading into the deepest parts of the inner-city in order to collect information for his foundation that helps the homeless. Since 2006, the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation has created 150 affordable housing units in seven American cities.
What makes a good cause marketing initiative?
1. A natural/logical relationship between the brand and the cause. In the case of Jon Bon Jovi, the relationship is clear. His music has often been about the struggles of the average man. In fact, his latest album includes a song called “Working For The Working Man” and numerous songs inspired by the economic meltdown. Jon Bon Jovi has never been one to flaunt his riches. Many of the people finding themselves homeless today are those who were walking the fine line between making it and not prior to the economic collapse, and all of us can relate to having to do more with less than ever before.
2. The PR happens (relatively) organically. Jon Bon Jovi isn’t calling this the “Bon Jovi Helps The Homeless Tour”. The good PR will happen in large part because he isn’t actively seeking it. He is simply meeting with local homeless groups in each city and touring the areas where his foundation could assist them. He isn’t doing it with news cameras and paparazzi. Yes, he has a PR machine working with his foundation, but they are not exploiting the cause in order to increase Jon’s profile.
3. The cause is timely. With the state of the economy and with people not eager to pay higher taxes, now is the perfect time to investigate new ways to help the homeless. The cause is an evergreen one that won’t be going away, but there’s no question that it is a particular hot button these days. It is important that the cause your brand supports is one that connects with people’s present state-of-mind, otherwise it is unlikely your efforts will register with customers.
Cause marketing is vital. As Roy Williams has observed, today’s society is one of increasing civil responsibility. It seems with each day we feel a stronger sense of community (that link is worth checking out, by the way). We are more likely than ever before to be loyal to a brand that gives back to our community in a meaningful way.
What does your brand give back? Have you developed a sense of higher purpose? Do you leave your customers with the feeling that you care about the same things they do?
Some examples of rock stars and rock star brands who give back to their communities:
Dave Matthews Band established the Bama Works Foundation in 1999 to help disadvantaged youth and the disabled. The foundation has also assisted environmental causes, the arts, and humanities.
Metallica has developed a relationship with Live Earth to use their concerts to raise money for the environment and fight climate change.
Elton John’s work with AIDS foundations has been well documented.
Whole Foods gives back 5% of their annual net profits to community causes, often determined by the local stores based on the needs of each individual community.
Last year, Ford donated $20 per test drive on each new car to the Susan G. Komen Foundation to help cure cancer.
Several times over the past few years, Apple has used the iTunes store to sell charity albums and songs without taking any profit. When the world’s largest music store decides to donate their cut of the profit, the numbers are significant.