As an advertising firm, the same questions always comes up: “How do we use this project to help people? How can we use this to make a real difference?” We, like everyone else, want to contribute to the triple-bottom-line while reaping the financial benefits of the projects we take on. In an effort to do this we see companies integrating marketing principles with sustainability projects, resulting in what American Express coined as Cause Related Marketing (CRM) circa 1983.
CRM programs involve a commitment to making a contribution or donating a percentage of profit to a cause based on product sales. It’s mutually beneficial in the sense that the program has the potential to raise funds and awareness for the cause as well as increase sales for the company – think ProductRED or General Mills’ Box Tops for Education. Self-interest combined with altruism; marketing combined with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). In CRM, program effectiveness is easily measured (dollars raised, financial contributions, increased consumer engagement, products sold, etc.).
A couple months ago, I finished about a year’s worth of research trying to prove that Cause Branding or CB (not CRM) was a more effective way of engaging in CSR. CB is an extension of CRM and is a process of aligning corporate goals with a social cause to create a long-term commitment in which social responsibility becomes a part of corporate identity. There’s little research about the topic, making program effectiveness difficult to pinpoint.
What I originally sought to prove was that CB campaigns bring a unique value to a company’s CSR initiatives, mainly because in CB the emphasis is placed on creating programs that put social interest above self-interest (or financial goals). What I ended up with was a model and framework for understanding how CB and CRM programs differ and 11 guiding principles for engaging in effective Cause Branding.
It’s too early to say whether the guiding principles can be definitively construed as best practices for engaging in CB (or if CB is a more effective approach to CSR than CRM). But, maybe there’s a happy medium between CB and CRM where financial goals and the quest for sustainable social change can live happily ever after.
In any case, it’s definitely exciting to be a part of the defining stages of what many of us seem to be trying to tap into when creating strategic programs.
About the Author
Marketing & Communication Manager
So what's a trained chef with a Masters Degree in Art Business doing in the storytelling biz? Satisfying the relentless appetites of clients in the most artful way possible, of course. It's that ability to balance the needs of suppliers, teammates and others that has been Ellie's recipe for success. On any given day, she can be found responding to untimely requests, delivering upon impossible timelines, or managing multi-faceted projects like the building of the world's first Einstein Museum. And all with a smile on her face. Hmmm, maybe it has something to do with knowing the best restaurants to eat at for all those demanding client dinners?