More than 20 years ago, cause marketing made it’s debut with a patriotic call by the Statue of Liberty Renovation folks. Lee Iacoca, former CEO of Chrysler was its spokesperson. The campaign blended sponsorship, PR and more in creating a public-private partnership
The campaign gave me an idea about how to blend worthy social causes with brands in a manner that would generate a win-win for all parties. I created a company (The Pearlman Group) that sought out CEO’s of brands who might embrace causes that fit with their brands culture and resonate with its target constituents (e.g. Coca Cola and education, Crystal Cruises and cleaner oceans and bays, and Chevrolet/Geo and the ).
In the latter case, we linked the most fuel efficient cars in America (Geo) with non-profit tree planting/beautification non-profits in cities throught out the U.S. Buring less fuel led to less CO2 on the atmosphere, and trees contribute to taking CO2 out of the atmosphere. Alll of this was a prelude to GM’s launch of the electric car, Earth Day and more. The campaign was fully integrated using sponsorship/event marketing and public relations as its foundation, and being supported by direct/interactive, social and traditional advertising. Consumers, dealers, government agencies (lcity, state and national) and GM employees all responded enthusiastically. Some skeptical media got onboard when they saw the cmpaign was authentic and did not deny that what was god for society, could also be good for business.
For a few years, cause marketing had its day in the sun, but then it was trivialized as every brand manager and account executive tried to come up with cause promotions such as discounts, percentage of profits to a non-profit, and so forth.
Eventually, cause marketing were viewd as passé and a bit superficial…and began to go away as the economy ran into trouble and non-essential programs were eliminated.
In recent years, some brands and programs have revived cause marketing with good strategic planning, authentic motives and synergy between their chosen cause and brand…and so forth.
Target and education, Tom’s shoes and needy children, BP atoning for its oil spill in the gulf and more renew the faith of employees, customers, non-profit volunteers and regulatory bodies who respond favorably in today’s marketplace.
Selective cause programs have merit more than ever…what with hurricane Sandy, the recent tornado in Oklahoma and more. Brands would do well to consider the merit of such programs as they seek to differentiate themselves from competitors, while remaining true to themselves and their constituencies.