Four Need-to-Know Takeaways from the Cause Marketing Summit

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By: Whitney Dailey,  Vice President of Marketing 

Last week, nonprofits and companies alike convened in New York City for the 4th Annual Cause Marketing Summit (CMS) – dedicated to unpacking Purpose-driven marketing, partnerships and the most engaging cause marketing campaigns of the past year. The one-day event featured the latest key insights from cause marketing experts on issues such as civil liberties, mental illness and STEM, as well as how the field continues to innovate to engage stakeholders around these critical issues. For those not on the ground at CMS, here are the four need-to-know takeaways from the event:

  • Create Multi-Dimensional Partnerships to Share Values: A conversation between Danielle Silber, director of strategic partnerships at the ACLU and Keni Thacker, senior event technology specialist at JWT, shared how the current political environment meant a surge in companies courting the ACLU to engage consumers and share values. One example, shared Silber, was Lyft’s “Round Up & Donate” program, which launched last spring. To participate, users simply opted to round up each fare to the nearest dollar and donate the remainder to the ACLU, raising $1.3 million to date. However, there was another natural synergy between the two organizations. Since a significant portion of Lyft’s drivers are immigrants, the ACLU tapped this base to share its “Know Your Rights” information.
  • Embrace Evolution: A “fireside chat” with Jeff Senne, senior director of Responsible Business Leadership at PwC and Whitney Dailey, vice president of marketing at Cone, touched on the evolution of PwC’s outlook on responsible business – starting with a 100-year legacy of philanthropy that transformed in 2007 to a focus on “corporate responsibility.” Since then, PwC has again evolved to “Responsible Business Leadership,” where “doing good” is embedded as part of the business strategy. The shift impacted PwC’s programs, as well. PwC’s financial literacy-focused “Earn Your Future” effort has evolved to a more multifaceted program. “Access Your Potential” equips young people in disadvantaged communities with the financial, technology and career-selection skills to succeed.
  • Engage Employees, Drive Sales: In a session entitled, “Partnering with Purpose: The Drive for Strategic Impact, Fueled by Data,” panelist Deidre Fraser, manager, special projects, Alex and Ani , shared a key insight from a recent cause marketing partnership with Plan International USA. To drive awareness, engagement and sales, the jewelry brand educated its employees about the special “Because I am a Girl” charm to benefit Plan International USA, then challenged them to a contest. The store that sold the most bangles would send one employee on a service trip to Ethiopia. The contest was so successful, the “Because I am a Girl” bangle became the brand’s best-selling item.
  • Gen Z is Primed to Engage, No Matter the Cause: Michaela Bethune, head of campaigns at DoSomething.org shared a provocative insight in the session entitled “Today's Activists, Tomorrow's Voters: Young People around the World are Speaking out and Changing the World We Live in.” Bethune stated when it comes to engaging Gen Z, “the cause doesn’t matter.” And although that may have shocked many in the room, Bethune expanded on the thought, saying Gen Z is not only primed to engage, they care deeply about nearly every issue. If cause marketers reach Gen Z where they are (primarily on social media) with an activation that resonates with the audience, they will jump at the opportunity to support it.

As the day came to a close, one overarching insight became clear: cause marketing is alive and well – it simply continues to evolve. Indeed, the Summit revealed new approaches to partnerships, novel nomenclature that reflects how impact can be embedded directly into the business strategy – even new audiences, in the form of Gen Z. These fresh perspectives, important insights and new models will continue to inspire practitioners for the year ahead.