Cause-It Sells and How!

Aug 02, 2019
by Digitalabs

What sells as much, if not more than sex? 
A cause. A social project. A philanthropic act. The more intense the cause, the better! 
Saving the adorable whales in the Arctic Circle? Good. Empowering domestic abuse victims? Yes, please! The rescue dogs being reemployed in the police force? Somebody hand me the tissues already! 
So where is this hoard of do-gooders sprouting from and how come everybody suddenly cares so much? And most importantly, why are brands suddenly sporting a compassionate streak? 
Well, there is a lot to it, but let’s start from the very beginning.

The Psyche of the Care-Culture.

With the increase in income and people spending more in general, having a cause to care about comes as a relief to the fragile conscience of the consumers. In a ‘So what I am spending 400$ on a luxury scarf, I also am helping kids in a third world country get a meal’ sort of way. 
Also, this is a generation of loud, opinionated people (some of) who care a lot and want to save the world or just like the adrenaline of fighting for a cause. Give them a sob story, access to wifi, a smartphone, and watch them light up like kids in a candy store. Add to this a brand that wants to save kittens in the frantic hope of looking more compassionate, human and as popular dating app will say, ‘It’s a Match!’
Brands tap right into this care-culture by providing the customers with just what they want. A happy conscience, by enabling them to support a cause and doing so from the luxury of their couch. In most cases, people actually do care and want to contribute, but just don't know how to. The problems seem too massive and intimidating for them to even try. But when a brand is attaching itself to a cause, they act as a comfortable yet crucial bridge for well-meaning consumers and the problem at hand. 
Agreed that the brands benefit a lot from the compassionate image that being connected to a cause brings, there is no denying the fact that some of them are actually changing lives. Many brands are using their visibility and the platform in such a  positive way, that they have brought in tangible results for the world to see. But there is a veil of ambiguity behind causes and brands need to be more transparent about their passion projects. 
How much of it is a tear-jerking branding exercise, and how many brands actually do care? While there are exceptions which are actually worth their salt, there are many which approach cause marketing as an essential ‘cool character builder’ to give their brand a layered personality. 
Is the actual cause being glorified, appropriated, and compromised in this charade or is any talk is good talk when it comes to a cause and creating awareness? 
Let’s dig a little deeper!

How having a cause to back up a brand helps?

Everyone needs a ’cause.’
Keeping the price and quality at par with competitive brands, having a cause for the greater good intends to have 89% higher sales than the rest, according to a study by CRS. 
Going by the fact that everyone wants to do something for the kids in Somalia, or the animals in circuses, people tend to incline towards a brand that supports the same purpose as an obligation on humanity grounds. 
For instance, there is a clear winner when it comes to buying a stole from a particular brand that helps the seals in the Arctic region and purchasing the same stole from a different brand that supports no cause.
Everyone wants to be a ‘Philanthropist.’
According to a study by America’s Charities, it clearly stated that people irrespective of age and gender wants to work for brands, companies, and agencies who support a cause for the greater good. This is especially the case when it comes to the young generations - Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millenials, who desperately want to make a difference, find a purpose in life and work accordingly. 
This is the era of youngsters, who very often question their very self-worth, love, and support brands with a social cause and want to work for them.
Feel good factor
When your own brand supports a social cause and makes an impact in this blue planet of ours, there is nothing that can make you feel bad. You will feel closer to your brand, and this feel-good factor is an essential fuel in the long run for a successful brand. 
This timeless feeling of making a difference tends to give you an improved physical and mental health, along with your employees and buyers. 
So, as long as you believe and support the ‘cruelty-free’ and ‘100% sustainable’ tags whole-heartedly, it has an 80% higher success rate than the rest.

What can go wrong while doing it?

Be ready for a backfire
Never ever stand for something or support a cause your brand does not resonate with or cannot relate with. Countless brands have faced huge public backlash due to misguided cause marketing campaigns. 
For example, the Kendal Jenner’s Pepsi ad where the brand got a huge backlash, and Pepsi had to issue a public apology. 
And on another instance, Mastercard’s FIFA 2018 World Cup’s campaign where 10,000 meals to starving kids in developing countries for every goal scored by Messi or Neymar Jr, was promised, created a substantial Social Media outcry.
No Denial Or Walking Away
Supporting or standing for a cause is a very delicate area, and you cannot leave it open-ended. If you do, you will either end up losing your customers to a brand that is strictly committing to a similar cause or at the very least, lose your brand’s stature altogether. 
So analyze thoroughly before starting off with a cause for your brand, because you will not be able to do it later.
No Control
Till the time it is not a non-profit organization, you will never have full control to align your brand’s cause with the activities of the brand. 
You cannot control the amount of money raised and how the goods are getting donated for the cause. It is always advisable to have a blueprint ready, but, still controlling it ounce to ounce is a next to impossible task.

The Takeaway

A cause stands as an important issue, with or without a brand, and most times is more vital than the brand.  It is a delicate affair, and it is necessary for a brand to understand the gravity of its purpose and how vast is the issue that they’re scratching the surface of. And most brands actually do. 
While associating with a cause is a dubious ground, there are some glaring exceptions which restore our faith in good-will and puts our cynicism to rest. For Example, Anheuser-Busch, the brewer has a long-standing contribution towards environmental conservation, responsible drinking, and community issues. They aim to alleviate the harmful use of alcohol as an effort towards its Global Smart Drinking Goals initiative. They intend to reduce harmful alcohol use by 10% by 2020.
 Similarly, AT&T, a leading telecom company has invested $350 million towards education through its AT&T Aspire initiative, and is passionately involved in several social initiatives, like “It Can Wait”, an endeavor against texting and driving.
A well-known brand has this incredible benefit of the public following, and they can bring up issues and topics that they feel passionately about and harness that following positively. It is backed up by a  loyal audience to talk about critical uncomfortable topics.
It is their chance to make an impact and do something bigger than just being a run-of-the-mill brand providing goods or services. This is good. The care-culture is positive and might influence a lot of people to actually do something about an issue which has been staring at their faces. 
However, if a brand really stands strong for an issue, they have a responsibility not to be flippant about the issue and take it in its all seriousness. 
As long as they have the best intentions of the cause in mind, any perks that come with being attached with a cause just comes as icing on the cake!

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