Cause Marketing going Digital- a boon or a bane ?

Cause Marketing as a concept is a type of marketing in which a for-profit and not-for-profit organisation collaborate in order to work towards a social cause with an intent to benefit mutually from the process. The non-profit organisation leverages the brand platform to muster public awareness, support and aid and the company benefits through greater Brand awareness and Public Relations and thus increase sales through an emotional appeal.

Image result for gondappa

The Edelman Good Purpose study conducted across 16 countries suggests that 71% of Indian consumers (compared with a global average of 43%), are willing to pay a premium to purchase products which support causes. And the Nielsen Global Socially Conscious consumer report also indicates that the Indian consumers score the highest on the willingness to spend more on products from socially responsible companies.

The approach towards Cause Marketing however has taken a paradigm shift after its integration with social media. According to the 2014 Digital Activism Study conducted by Cone Communications more than 64% of Americans say that they are inclined to support social and environmental causes through ways such as volunteering, sharing information, donating and “following” or “liking” information online.

People view Social media as a platform to raise concerns, spread awareness and fight for causes. Apart from this, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram etc. are becoming powerful mediums of social interaction especially with internet penetration of 3.17 users and 2.3 billion active social media users. What keeps the soup constantly simmering or boiling is the changing mind set of the users. Peers constantly influence the millennial population who want to project themselves as associated with something good and trendy through on Social Media. With growing economic prosperity, they are keener to participate in charitable causes but are equally interested to verify the authenticity of the same. Social Media thus provides a trustworthy platform to the companies to depict the story, garner public support and set the wheel rolling by creating user generated publicity.

Some Successful Cause Marketing Campaigns

  • “The Journey of Doing Right – Half Stories”– TATA group and United Way of Mumbai, a global NGO

They encouraged unique stories of courage and determination from the remotest parts of the country and highlighted the challenges faced by the individuals or the community. One could directly donate towards the causes through the platform or simply share these so called “Half Stories” with his/her social connections. The campaign not only leveraged the collective power of people through social media, but also helped establish the brand philosophy, ‘We only do what’s right for you.

  • Paper Boat #FloatABoat campaign with Parivaar Ashram, a humanitarian service organization

Paper Boat- which stands for “Drinks and childhood memories” got everyone to make paper boats. They shared pictures of boats on social media. For every picture shared, the brand would donate Rs. 20 towards children’s education. Social networks captured the floating paper boats, as the brand shared emotionally appealing films on the cause and how to make a paper boat as narrated by a school girl.

  • Ching’s Secret ‘India ke hunger ki bajao’

The Hakka Chinese brand initiated a cause marketing Digital campaign – ‘India Ke Hunger Ki Bajao!’ in partnership with Akshaya Patra, a not-for-profit organisation that runs the world’s largest mid-day meal programme. Ranveer Singh became brand ambassador. The central message was – ‘it takes only Rs. 750 to feed a child for an year’ . A digital film showcased him having fun with school kids and figuring out all items costing Rs. 750.

A campaign website served as an information and donation hub. The cause campaign helped Ching’s Secret lend an actionable voice to its tagline, ‘Hunger Ki Bajao’.

There are multiple other similar campaigns by companies like- Colgate (‘Smiles’ campaign), Chase (to allow public for vote for the charitable organization where it will make its donation), Kellogg’s (‘Share a Breakfast’ campaign), and many more organizations to increase their own share of public trust and relations.

However, there are critics who beg to differ. Many of them believe that “Cause Marketing” has impacted social media such that actual charitable contribution by people has decreased. This is because such online engagement through social media promotes a sense of illusion among users. People believe that something is really being done, if they actually view, like or share.

Also, many times, companies promise to donate a certain amount for every like/share but fix the upper limit. Thus after reaching the target, there is no extra benefit for the non-profit institution. Thus the entire strategy only promotes the profit making company’s brand. These critics believe that most of the time “Cause Marketing” through social media masks conflict of interest. For e.g. a company trying to spread awareness about cancer itself produces carcinogenic products. Hence, the company cannot achieve the desired target when the initial intention is not right.

Sometimes efforts taken towards “Cause Marketing” backfire in social media when it is perceived as unnecessary and spam. It is then viewed as a tactical strategy to create a buzz instead of solving the problem it stands for. This in turn reduces the company’s credibility and customer loyalty. This was one of the main reason why P&G did not market for its initiative “Loads of Hope” which donated clothes to disaster struck area.

Conclusion about Cause Marketing

Social Media has become an inherent part of everyday life. Companies are leveraging this fact to promote brand awareness and customer loyalty. But there is a fine line between being the trending post and spamming. Thus this is what companies should keep in mind while devising their marketing strategies.