Have you ever purchased a product because it supports breast cancer, or because it featured an Olympic athlete, such as Ryan Lochte, on the packaging? As marketers, we must be aware of which emotions are more likely to resonate with shoppers. In today’s retail environment, shoppers must decide what promotions provide the most value. There are several different strategies that CPG marketers use to increase sales, including associating consumer products with specific causes, events or giveaways.
According to Wikipedia, cause marketing refers to “a type of marketing involving the cooperative efforts of a ‘for profit’ business and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit.” Breast cancer awareness is one of the most prevalent causes associated with consumer products. Each October, and increasingly throughout the year, marketers coat their products in pink and donate a portion of their proceeds to research. Similarly, companies that release limited-edition products surrounding major events like the Olympics also rely on the power of cause marketing campaigns to provoke an emotional response that will influence shopper behavior.
Lately, some marketers have begun to question the effectiveness of cause marketing, wondering if it is any more influential than other promotional vehicles, such as coupons. While many companies have turned to cause marketing, some marketers wonder if “cause fatigue” has set in. Recent research indicates that as cause marketing becomes more pervasive, some shoppers are starting to consider it gimmicky and disingenuous. To address this concern, Think Before You Pink, a project of Breast Cancer Action, launched in 2002 to address the increasing amount of pink ribbon products on the market. The campaign seeks more transparency from companies participating in breast cancer fundraising, and it advises shoppers to critically evaluate pink ribbon promotions.
Additionally, while consumers do believe CPG brands’ support of breast cancer has raised awareness of the cause, recent studies indicate that shoppers are concerned that the extensive support of breast cancer awareness overshadows other important causes. One mother, whose daughter has melanoma, was quoted in a recent USA Today article, and wishes this serious form of skin cancer “got even a fraction of the attention and funding.”
Several simple steps to overcome ineffective cause marketing programs include:
- Choose a charity for the cause marketing campaign based on relevance to the product involved
- Choose a charity that has achieved measureable results
- Tell shoppers what charity the brand is marketing with and why
- Provide shoppers with information about how much money the charity will receive through the campaign and how the charity will use the funds
- Publish follow up information after the campaign ends
Oversaturation aside, it may no longer be enough for marketers to simply attach a specific cause to their brand – it’s time to get creative! Yoplait’s effort to raise awareness for breast cancer, “Saving Lids to Save Lives,” incorporated a more personal approach that included painting one woman’s house pink to honor the four friends she lost to breast cancer. Yoplait has donated a total of over $30 million in the last fourteen years.
Are consumers really more likely to purchase something because a certain percentage of the proceeds benefit a particular cause? Or, at the end of the day, would they just rather have a coupon and/or receive a giveaway upon purchase? It may be time for marketers to reevaluate their programs and revamp cause marketing as we know it. What causes tug at your heartstrings?