Hundreds of cause marketers congregated in Chicago yesterday for the 9th annual Cause Marketing Forum annual conference (CMF). Representing companies, nonprofits and agencies, the 450 attendees hailed from more than 30 states and several countries. A few takeways from the event:
Canadian cause marketing has serious cred. No fewer than three Canadian organizations received cause marketing Halo Awards, including TELUS (Best Transactional Campaign), Royal Bank of Canada (Best Video Creative and Best Environmental or Animal Campaign) and Aviva Canada (Best Digital Marketing Campaign). To be fair, this was the first year Canadian organizations could enter the awards, and they certainly did so with gusto.
Voting campaigns may be losing appeal. In an informal snap poll, about 60 percent of attendees said “Hate ‘em” in reference to consumer voting campaigns. Keynote speaker Nancy Lublin of DoSomething.org explained her organization’s reluctance to participate in such efforts after an intern was able to drastically improve DoSomething.org’s rating in one such campaign in a matter of two weeks. These types of campaigns, Lublin says, are “impure.” Today, DoSomething.org will only participate in campaigns validated by third parties.
Critics are unavoidable. CMF President David Hessekiel cited three truths he’s learned from his cause marketing media interviews: reporters will always try to dig up a company’s skeletons that will reflect poorly on its cause efforts; no matter how successful and well-meaning a program, any minor oversight will make headlines before your actual impact on the cause; and, you won’t change the true cynics’ minds. For example, Walmart’s $1.5 million investment last year in much-needed infrastructure for food banks was met with criticism because it wasn’t a food donation. Don’t be dissuaded; the naysayers are inevitable. Proceed with caution and a good communications plan.
We’ve only scratched the surface of great cause marketing. We do an incredible amount of cause marketing tracking and believe we have a pretty good handle on the space. But a minute at the Cause Marketing Forum shows the volume of cause marketing is beyond measure. Sure you’ve heard of Pepsi Refresh and the American Express Members Project, but have you seen Liberty Mutual’s National Conversation Drive, A&E’s The Recovery Project or Cranes for Kids from Oshkosh and Carter’s? The company challenged kids to make 50,000 origami cranes in exchange for a donation of up to 50,000 pieces of clothing for Japanese children. They received 2 million.
Cause marketing is thriving, so we’ll certainly be back at CMF next year to stay on top of these exciting programs and new campaigns. We hope to see you there!