Living as we are in a society that is divided by interests, defined by demographics and convinced of activism through click, like or share, it is but natural for cause marketing to take root and flourish. The concept of a brand espousing a cause by contributing a percentage of proceeds has been around for some time, cases in point being P&G and Parle where consumers were provided with the additional push to purchase the product by creating an opportunity for them to contribute for a good cause. The onus of activism was squarely on the shoulders of the brand. The consumer merely had to buy the brand in question to do his charitable act for a cause.
In keeping with the era of storytelling and selfies, brands have taken causes to the centre of the brand campaigns. No longer are campaigns about purchasing to contribute; the causes are now the campaign themselves, woven inextricably in the fabric of the story and elevating from a brand commercial into a brand statement.
However, for cause campaigns to resonate with the audience and create the desired impact it is essential that they ride on the backbone of solid marketing sense. No matter how good the story or how worthy the cause, if it does not resonate with the brand then the message will fall flat and seem forced to the content-weary consumer.
How good can it be?
P&G for instance set the bar with its rousing Proud sponsor of moms campaign which it aligned superbly with the Olympics — summer and winter — coming up with a new story each time to appreciate either the strength, affection or perseverance of the mother behind the scenes. No doubt the story hit home and tugged at the heartstrings.
If you unravel the campaign and lay it shorn of all its trappings you will see a shrewd marketing strategy to play to the galleries — the mothers in this case, driven by research which possibly pointed towards them being the primary buyers and purchase decision makers.
Ariel’s Share the Load campaign is another example of shrewd positioning and targeting and if I may add, great punning, while also advocating the need for urban men to share the load of household chores. Do notice that it did not take a similar stand with rural products where its cause will be frowned upon.
Undoubtedly, cause marketing enables brands to connect at an emotional level with the consumer which helps them stand out amidst the clutter and influence purchase decisions. It converts customers into brand advocates — a dream come true for any marketing manager worth her salt.
Another case in point and a personal favourite are the Dove campaigns championing the cause of real beauty for real women. Over the years, Dove has stood steadfast and committed in its stand for real beauty and has given us some truly memorable campaigns be it You are more beautiful that you think or the more recent Change the Rhyme campaign. The timing of the ad couldn’t have been accidental — synced as it was with the nationwide adulation of women at large, thanks to the only Indian medal winners at the Rio Olympics being women.
For a cause campaign to truly work for the brand at the till, it has to necessarily connect instinctively with the brand promise in the consumer’s mind. However subtle it may be, unless the cause connects convincingly and effortlessly with the brand statement it might just land up being a great video with no brand impact.
The Nescafé campaign featuring a stuttering stand-up comedian who makes a new start, while addressing the social stigma of stuttering also connected beautifully to the brand statement of It all starts with Nescafé. Another example of cause marketing that was further amplified by an on-ground activity was the transparency campaign from Nirmal coconut oil.
Connecting with the clamour for transparency from godmen, politicians and even motorists, and coinciding with the regulation to remove sunfilms from car windows and windscreens for greater transparency, the brand ably connected the cause with its transparent bottles. An on-ground activity that offered to remove car sunfilms for free further amplified and validated the campaign.
Dabur Vatika’s salute to cancer survivors was another hard-hitting campaign that addressed the common perception of hair being synonymous with beauty and assured women who had survived chemotherapy that their resilience set them apart and made them more beautiful.
To sum up, a cause campaign is still a marketing campaign and unless it adheres to the 5W and 1H, is rooted in solid research, maintains contextual relevance and while doing all this clearly connects with the brand promise, it will fail to bring money for the jam.
The author is Indu Kannan, associate VP, Kestone Integrated Marketing Solutions