Cause Marketing's Dirty Little Secret

Consumers demand it. Cause marketers extol it. Yet some of even the best-known programs fail to live up to it. It’s time to fess up- lack of transparency is the cause marketing industry’s dirty little secret.

It is by no means a new issue, but it’s coming to a head as cause programs multiply in the marketplace and consumers and the media expect answers (fewer than half of consumers think companies and nonprofitsare providing enough details about their partnerships). For this reason, transparency in cause marketing was the focus of a keynote presentation Cone’s Chief Reputation Officer, Mike Lawrence, shared yesterday at the Cause Marketing Forum in Chicago. The landscape is replete with state commercial co-venture regulations and advertising disclosure laws, but these can vary by location and are rarely enforced. To better navigate this tricky terrain, Mike suggested marketers, nonprofits and agencies should remember to think like a consumer and ask a simple question to ensure clarity in their cause marketing promotions: “What is supposed to happen when I buy this – and how do I know it did?”

Language such as “proud supporter of” (Does this insinuate a flat donation? Does the consumer still believe his or her purchase will contribute to this donation?) or “X percent of gross profits” (Will any consumer know what this translates to?) leaves much room for misinterpretation. Instead, strive to provide the program details up front (Who does this benefit? How much of my individual purchase will go to the cause? How long does the program run?) and confirm the total investment in the issue over time so consumers are confident their participation made a difference.

“What is supposed to happen when I buy this – and how do I know it did?” It’s a seemingly simple question – but are you asking it?


Back to Insights