It’s no secret – doing good is in. As consumers, we expect the brands and organizations we love to “give back”. What’s less obvious, but becoming more apparent, is that there’s definitely a good way to do good through marketing and advertising – and organizations often get it breathtakingly wrong (*cough* Pepsi).

As private companies and nonprofits attempt to walk this cause marketing tightrope with promotions and partnerships that offer support to specific nonprofit organizations, we’ve noticed some significant trends. Here are a few to watch during the remainder of 2017:

LET’S TALK POLITICS

Companies generally avoid overtly partisan political statements, especially when the issues are still contentious. They’re usually wary about alienating potential customers by picking a side before the dust has settled. This year however, we’ve seen quite a few organizations boldly wade into the fray, for better or worse.

Budweiser – Born the Hard Way

Both supporters and opponents of Donald Trump interpreted Budweiser’s Super Bowl commercial, “Born the Hard Way”, as a rejection of the President’s anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric. Whether or not this ad was intentionally subversive, the timing made it noteworthy. Trump had just signed an executive order banning travellers from seven predominantly Muslim countries. This unequivocal support for immigration didn’t go unnoticed by some of the president’s more ardent supporters; some even threatened a boycott. It was a noticeable change in tone from a beer company that tends to employ more conventional advertising, and we’re all for it.

Heineken – Worlds Apart

Another ad that appeared to acknowledge the current highly-polarized political climate was Heineken’s “Worlds Apart”. The beer company invited six people to a warehouse and paired each one with a stranger. Unbeknownst to the guests, their partners shared an opposing political view about a contentious issue: gender identity, feminism or climate change. The subjects were then tasked with working together to build a bar, followed by a round of icebreaker questions. Once the partners had completed the challenge, and established a seemingly genuine connection through conversation, Heineken dropped the bombshell on them; the strangers sat and watched prerecorded videos of their partners expressing their vastly different, and sometimes hurtful political positions. Awkward, to say the least. After viewing the videos, the partners could decide to stay together to discuss their views (while enjoying a Heineken, of course) or leave. Unfailingly, the new acquaintances chose to stay and chat, because beer, much like Pepsi, heals all wounds.

 

POWER TO THE PEOPLE

Many companies have found marketing success by creating giving campaigns that allowed fans to vote for their favourite causes and nonprofits.

Google Canada Impact Challenge

This year, Google Canada took it to another level with its Impact Challenge. The initiative directed $5 million dollars to 10 nonprofit organizations selected by online voting.

This campaign worked for a number of reasons. Obviously, Google got to bask in the glow of the great work that these nonprofit organizations have done (while broadening their impact). Equally important, the competing nonprofits used their own networks to broadcast the initiative and raise the sponsor’s profile. These third party endorsements were undoubtedly far more valuable than the prize money.

 

GET IT IN WRITING

“What gets measured gets done.” This cliche has staying power because it often reflects the nature of business priorities. Organizations truly invested in long-term positive CSR impacts have realized that good intentions only become concrete when they are attached to measurable goals in mission and vision statements, and to significant segments of quarterly and annual reports. Oh, and it’s good for business too.

Look for more organizations to adopt reporting methods like the Balanced Scorecard and the Triple Bottom Line that appropriately reflect the importance of social responsibility to organizational growth and sustainability.

SHOW DON’T TELL

We know that videos have already become essential components of the digital marketing mix, cause-related or otherwise.They now account for nearly 70% of all website traffic. It’s unsurprising then that cause marketers and nonprofits are allotting more time and attention to creating shareable video content.

Of course, few of us like being interrupted by ads on Facebook and Youtube. We can’t wait to click “Skip”. So, good storytelling is the critical element here. Marketers should aim to create content as entertaining and engaging as the videos and timelines they’re interrupting. That means fewer announcements and broadcasts, more narrative, more story arc.

Ram Trucks’ Super Bowl commercial is a few years old now, but it’s still a benchmark for this kind of storytelling. The company partnered with the National Future Farmers of America to increase awareness about the importance of farming and agriculture. The wildly-popular advertisement helped Ram Trucks raise $1 million for the FFA.

Interested in learning some more tactics to bring your Cause Marketing to the next level? Join us at our 3rd #SplashSaloon, “Cause Marketing for Non-Profits.”

Taking place on July 13th and sponsored by our friends at Artscape Daniels Launchpad, this Saloon will feature four talented panelists and their insights on creating materials and campaigns that drive awareness, impact and fundraising for important causes. 

We have limited spaces available for this Saloon so register now to avoid disappointment.