Conscious Marketing for a Semiconscious Society

  • Categories:

    Community, Strategy

  • Date:

    July 28, 2022

Conscious Marketing for a Semiconscious Society



Community Strategy

I strongly believe each of us has a responsibility to help improve the space we inhabit — within the community where we live or the planet we call home. While no single effort will solve all the world’s problems, I’m convinced that we have more power to create real change than we give ourselves credit for.

This is especially true for companies that yield the combined power of many individual voices. Regardless of its size, your organization has a unique platform to champion causes that matter and make an impact in a way that others cannot.

Enter cause-related marketing: When brands and businesses “align themselves with social issues or beliefs that are important to them and execute a campaign” (HubSpot), it can become a powerful marketing tool to raise awareness and highlight social responsibility. Furthermore, an authentic approach can elevate a brand in the eyes of its audience.

I have a special place in my heart for cause-related marketing: Prior to joining Wray Ward, I worked for Discovery Place, a nonprofit children’s museum that encourages scientific exploration and creativity. The museum’s corporate partners play an invaluable role in making STEM education accessible to all. Earlier in my career, I worked with the American Cancer Society to provide free housing to patients traveling for treatment — and incorporated this into a marketing campaign that encouraged consumers to support the cause. Today, I work with United Way of Central Carolinas, one of four organizations that received a Wray Ward EmpoWWer service grant for 2022.

Genuine cause-related marketing will not only open the eyes of your customers to the needs around them, but it will also help them see you in a positive light, strengthening their bond with your brand.

How Embracing a Greater Cause Benefits Brands

Research shows that customers seek out brands with whom their values are aligned. According to a 2022 Harris Poll, 82% of shoppers prefer a consumer brand’s values to align with their own, “and they’ll vote with their wallet if they don’t feel a match.” These consumers want more than a commodity: They want the good feeling that comes with supporting a company that supports their same values.

Another study conducted by IBM found that consumers fall into one of two categories: value-driven and purpose-driven. While there are still many consumers out there who are only looking for the best value for them, a growing number of people are concerned with the best value for everyone, regardless of the product or service being sold.

  • Value-driven consumers are more concerned with getting the most bang for their buck and choose brands based primarily on price or convenience.

  • On the flip side, the purpose-driven consumer considers the intrinsic values of brands and how closely they align with their own. Even if they have to pay more, they’re willing to spend extra money on products or services from a company that focuses on the greater good.

If these studies tell us anything, it’s this: Focusing your marketing efforts on more than what you’re selling is crucial to increasing your brand reputation.

The question then becomes, with seemingly endless options to choose from, which cause should you align your brand with?

Selecting a Cause: Stay in Your Lane

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations are registered in the U.S. With so many options to pick from, where do you even begin?

Evaluating the issues that exist within your category is one of the best ways to determine which organizations or causes to work with. Which of these causes does your company feel most compelled to support? Which cause most closely aligns with what you do? The more natural the fit, the more your cause-related messaging will resonate with your target audience.

Here are a few examples of what this could look like from brands that do it well:

  • Through its Home for Good project, Cornerstone Building Brands has helped make “home” possible for more than 500 families. Since 2016, Cornerstone has partnered with Habitat for Humanity, donating more than $2 million in building products as well as countless volunteer hours.

  • The Stanley® Building Better Communities initiative supports multiple organizations in their mission to build homes, build skills or rebuild communities.

  • Lowe’s partnered with Habitat for Humanity to help provide housing for families who can’t afford to own a home.

  • Patagonia, an outdoor clothing brand, actively and vocally supports a variety of organizations whose mission is to protect the environment.

  • Allbirds is an eco-friendly shoe company that utilizes recycled and sustainable materials to manufacture its products. They’ve set up several programs that help reduce their own carbon footprint while educating their customers on how to reduce their impact on the Earth’s climate.

  • Subaru’s “Share the Love” campaign gives customers the opportunity to support one of four nonprofit organizations connected to causes they may care about: ASPCA, Make-A-Wish, Meals on Wheels and the National Park Foundation.

Finding a cause or organization that fits your brand’s mold is a natural way to give back while focusing on what you know and do best.

Want to see what organizations your brand could team up with? Charity Navigator and GuideStar are two great places to start your research.

Doing It for the Right Reasons

While supporting a good cause is a benefit to society, I offer you a word of caution: It’s vital that your company and employees are aligned with an organization’s ethos. Diligently research who they are and what they do. Be sure to fully understand the organization you’re supporting. This research will not only ensure you’re choosing the best organization for your brand to support, but it will also help you build a genuine relationship with them.

Aligning with causes that you genuinely feel compelled to support — and for which you can succinctly share your “why” — will ensure your communications come across as honest and not contrived. The last thing you want is for your brand to come off as inauthentic or trying to get “good press.” Consumers are smart, and many of them will see right through the smoke screen of insincerity.

A subtle approach to cause-related marketing may be your best bet. A study by the Journal of Advertising Research found that cause-related marketing that “turns up the emotional intensity and levels of guilt often does not create resonance, as one might intuit, but actually results in distrust among viewers.”

All of this information is a lot to consider. I don’t deny that choosing the right cause or organization can be difficult. However, with an open heart and meticulous research, your brand can play a tremendous role in creating the change we need in our communities.

Like many companies, Wray Ward is committed to helping build a better world, especially through our EmpoWWer service-grant program. Each year, we invite deserving 501(c)(3) organizations to apply for resources of time and talent to help enhance and further their cause.

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