The Cause Marketing Forum celebrated its 10th anniversary this week, as more than 500 corporate, nonprofit and agency practitioners came together in Chicago to share insights and best practices. The issues and industries were diverse, but a few key themes rang true for all:
- You can still find a niche: A cookie brand may not be a natural match for most health-related nonprofits, but Keebler found its cause marketing sweet spot through a partnership with the American Red Cross. Its cause marketing effort, "Be a Good Cookie," encourages consumers to donate blood and provides a much-needed sugary treat to those who do.
- Cause marketing is not too saturated: Pink products line store shelves across the nation, but one thing was clear during the Cone Communications-moderated "Great Breast Cancer Debate" – until we have a cure, the space is not too saturated. Participants from Whirlpool, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and ANN INC. admit that although there are good and bad cause marketing programs in the marketplace, there is no end in sight for their efforts until they have accomplished their mission to end the disease.
- Employees are the front line: Consumers have more direct access to brands than ever before, but we heard over and over again that employees are still the first ambassadors for a corporate cause. Casey Brennan, manager of marketing and insights for VolunteerMatch, believes employees can be an ideal testing ground for cause marketing efforts – such as vetting a potential partner's cultural fit – and the American Red Cross reminded us to consider the potential impact of a new cause program across the organization. After all, someone will be responsible for stocking the thousands of pallets of cookies when they arrive.
- Setbacks are inevitable: Even with the most meticulous planning, most cause marketing campaigns will face unforeseen challenges – say, consumers revolting against Arctic Home's white cans or a truck full of chocolate cookies catching on fire. You can never anticipate all that may happen, but designating immediate decision makers from both partners and keeping a close watch on social communities can help mitigate the issues as they arise.
- A good story is still the greatest tool: Caryl Stern, president & CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, relayed both personal and organizational stories in her keynote speech in such a powerful way that goose bumps prickled around the room. Statistics and case studies may convince, but nothing captivates an audience – including potential donors and partners – like the power of a good story.
Stay tuned to www.causemarketingforum.com for more from the Cause Marketing Forum's annual conference.
We encourage your thoughts and comments. Continue the conversation on Twitter by using #WDYSF.