I write a lot about cause marketing. I’ve hit the publish button on more than 100 posts this year on my blog, Selfish Giving. I’ve written over 50 posts for Razoo’s Inspiring Generosity blog. And, of course, I’ve written a dozen posts for my friends here at For Momentum! I also wrote a new book on cause marketing that will be out later this month.
But, even with all that writing, I still have trouble making predictions about cause marketing. They’re usually wrong. That’s why I’m scaling back my usual predictions to expectations of what I think will happen in the coming year. The only prediction I’m making is that I’ll be smiling ear to ear next December when I go four for four on my expectations for 2014!
POINT-OF-SALE WILL CONTINUE TO DOMINATE
Cause Marketing Forum released a study earlier this year on the top 63 point-of-sale (POS) programs in 2012. Together, these programs raised a whopping $360 million dollars. Pinups, register programs, donation boxes and round-ups aren’t always the most popular programs with customers. Many supermarket chains, for instance, host monthly POS fundraisers, which have raised millions but have also fatigued customers and cashiers. However, for consumer-facing businesses with lots of foot traffic and locations, POS is a natural choice. These programs raise millions nationally. Even local programs can raise five to six figures. Point-of-sale is lucrative, easy and tolerated by businesses and consumers. It will continue in 2014.
What will be different in 2014: You’ll be accosted less at the register with requests to give. The programs will be better executed, impact-driven and will include more incentives for consumers. If you’re a nonprofit or business reading this, retool your next POS program accordingly.
MORE COMPANIES WILL SAY “I DO” TO CAUSE PRODUCTS
Just as businesses will host fewer POS campaigns so they can have a bigger impact, more will adopt the ultimate cause marketing strategy: cause products. Committing your company to creating a unique product to benefit a cause is a big undertaking. Check out these examples. Still, consumer expectations for company support of causes continues to grow and companies will need to move beyond simply working with causes to making a bold commitment to changing the world.
What to watch for in 2014: Keep your eyes peeled for more signature cause products. Kitschy is the best word to distinguish a signature cause product from a traditional cause product. A signature cause product is iconic, and created primarily for fans of a brand. For example, Firehouse Subs is well known for its pickles and the five-gallon buckets they come in. Fans of the chain love these buckets and use them for gardening, painting, storage, and so forth. Firehouse sells the buckets for $2 each with all proceeds benefiting Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation. Another example is a meat and onion scented candle White Castle sells that supports Autism Speaks. It sells out every year!
MORE COMPANIES WILL GO IT ALONE
Did you notice that Firehouse Subs doesn’t partner with one of the well known organizations focused on public safety? They’ve created their own foundation for which they raise money. You can’t blame companies for funding their own cause programs. Nonprofits can be unpredictable, inefficient and prone to scandal. Companies can avoid the fuss and risk by taking their cause marketing in-house where they can keep an eye on it. Of course, this puts the pressure on the business to run a quality program. But after the very public embarrassments of Komen, Livestrong and others, more companies may choose bachelorhood over marriage and leave their nonprofit partners at the altar.
How to make sure your nonprofit doesn’t get replaced in 2014: Ask yourself: Is your nonprofit having a real impact on the problem you’re trying to fix? The sad truth is that many nonprofits aren’t – that’s what makes them so expendable. In the new year, sharpen your focus. Stop diffusing your light by covering too many things. Affix yourself to one hazard and be the beacon that saves someone – or something – from a terrible wreck. In our disposable society your goal is to be irreplaceable.
#PAYITFORWARD WILL OUTSHINE CAUSE MARKETING
Even if you’re a seasoned cause marketer you may not have heard much about Pay It Forward, which I often see as a hashtag #payitforward. Cause Marketing is the term marketers and fundraisers use to describe fundraising with businesses. It’s an industry term. But your average Joe and Jane thinks it means the marketing of causes, which it kind of does. That’s part of the problem with cause marketing. That’s why you hear more people talking about Pay It Forward.
Not convinced? Do a hashtag search on a popular social network. I picked Instagram. If you plug in the hashtag #causemarketing you get 188 results. But when you type in in #payitforward you get over 102,000 results. Sure, #payitforward includes all sorts of things, but there are a lot references to nonprofit and for-profit partnerships. For your average person, anything that lets them pass along a nugget of their good fortune to someone who is less fortunate is paying it forward. They don’t see a nonprofit and for-profit partnership. They see an opportunity to act.
How you’ll need to think differently next year. The real opportunity in business and nonprofit partnerships isn’t in corporate giving, as many people think. It’s in creating opportunities for customers and employees to pay it forward to the people and causes they care about. It’s a different mindset that puts people before partnerships. Empower people and you’ll have a great partnership!
What are your expectations for cause marketing in 2014? Are you bold enough to make a prediction? Share them in the comments and we’ll check back next December to laud your success!