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Marketing the Cause

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Socially conscious consumers are increasingly looking to associate with brands that show a commitment towards a social cause they believe in and reflect their beliefs. We explore how cause-related marketing campaigns help in building the brand trust and reinforcing the brand story.

Kantar’s ‘Purpose 2020’ report states that, “Purpose is what people are looking for in brands and this preference will only intensify as the next generation comes of age. Purpose-led brands enjoy stronger growth and a deeper connection with consumers.  Purpose is central to success in the future of consumption.” Today’s consumer, especially the millennial, is socially aware and given a choice would gravitate towards a brand that resonates with their moral and ethical beliefs. Kantar’s report also states that, millennial believe, “Businesses have the size, reach and trust it takes, and people expect companies to use this power for a good purpose.” With consumers becoming invested in brands that they believe in, brands too have taken up cause-related marketing to strengthen the connect with the consumer.

There are various studies that show that consumers, today, willingly pay more for products associated with a social cause. According to a research conducted by DoSomething Strategic and DEFY Media this year, 34% young consumers ‘unfollow’ brands and stop using them because of their “lack of social responsibility”. The research report further states that, “Purpose matters more than ever, it’s important for brands to actively take a stand around the important issues of our time, and young consumers are the vanguard of this shift.”

 Aligning with a cause

Today, brands are moving from short-term campaigns to meaningful commitments based on the causes they care most about, giving consumers a reason to believe, before giving them a reason to buy. Purpose has never been more important. Today, catching the consumer attention is a challenge, with the proliferation of new-age media, a multitude of choices, content and new products. This year’s Meaningful Brands survey, conducted annually by Havas, found that people would not care if 77% of the world’s brands disappeared tomorrow. According to a spokesperson from Procter & Gamble (P&G) India, “nine of 10 consumers say they have a more positive image of a brand when it supports a cause and half the consumers today make purchase decisions based on their shared beliefs with the brand. This indicates that it is increasingly becoming important for them to be more responsible.”

Taking into consideration the social awareness of the millennial consumer, it only makes sense that social media has become a major gateway of communication between the brand and the consumer. But, this gateway is unguarded and over populated with multiple choices. Messages with social and emotional connect reach consumer faster and appeal more to their conscience.  Rishabh Sharma, Head of Brand Strategy, Twitter India, says, “There has never been a tougher time to be a brand or a marketer. It is really essential for organisations to find an intersection between the market, culture and consumer to build relevance and deliver a real impact beyond just the product/service benefits they have to offer.”

Brands also need to be socially active in order to stay relevant and build a personalized connect with the consumer. Vikram Bahl, Area Marketing Lead, Nutrition & Digestive Health, GSKCH Indian subcontinent, says that, “Brands connect with consumers most when they touch consumers in an authentic and relevant way. Tapping into the right issues and emotions, make a strong connection with audience and turn it into long-lasting relationships.”

Though the millennial consumer is socially aware and active, he is also fickle minded. With options to ‘skip the ad’, change the channel or to scroll past the advertisement, this consumer is very difficult to connect with and it’s here that cause-related marketing helps engage the audience. According to Puneet Das, Vice President Marketing, Tata Global Beverages, “Today’s consumers are bombarded with thousands of messages and attention spans of consumers are at a premium. Hence, for the brands to be socially active not only helps them get noticed, but it also establishes a deeper, and more meaningful connection with its audience. It goes beyond the product or functional proposition.”

Building consumer engagement

Socially driven storytelling is a well-established route of driving persuasion and consumer engagement. Bahl explains, “When a brand follows a socially driven approach to reach its consumers, it reinforces the brand’s story.” Social purpose can draw an organic traction from the consumer end. When consumers find brands weave in purpose and genuine intent to make a difference, both the brand message and values get seamlessly strengthened.  “Consumers embrace the brands that follow cause-marketing more than others, as it shows a brand’s commitment towards community and its core value. Consumers like to connect with brands that share their passion and drive to transform for the better. By doing so, we build a strong foundation and long lasting customer relationship”, he adds.

According to Das, cause-related marketing campaigns “enables brands to establish deeper connection with the audience and makes the brand more humane.” Backing this point, there are many studies to prove that consumers like to associate with brands which are more socially responsible and conscious. “There are studies which have been done (mainly in the West), which indicate that increasingly consumers want brands to take a stand on social issues and majority of them are loyal to ‘purpose driven’ brands who are championing a social cause”, adds Das.

Today, social media is the interactive platforms for brands and consumers. It is where we see many brands connect with a current hot topic and often fall short of delivering an impact due to lack of design to drive for participation. According to Sharma, “Moments occur daily on Twitter, perhaps delivering a 24-48 hours swell in conversation, but there are few moments that go on to become movements evoking conversations at a sustained period of time.”

Sharma highlights the key features of successful purpose-driven marketing approach. He says, “Brands need to create content which is informative. They need to listen to consumers and react accordingly, and build campaigns that not only lead to important conversations but also leave a lasting impact.”

Consistency is the key

Edelman Earned Brand Report of 2017 states that, as many as 57% of consumers will buy or boycott a brand based on its position on a social or political issue. Another study by DEFY Media and DoSomething Strategic says that, “consumers will stop using a brand if it lets them down. This can be due to price increases and product quality issues, but it’s also due to actions not in line with young people’s values and beliefs.”

To keep the consumer engaged, Sharma believes that brands should associate with the cause that is linked with the very core of brand’s value. He says, “Purpose-marketing works when the cause a brand is addressing is linked to its very core. Today customers are able to quickly identify the difference between a brand that is trying to make a difference versus those merely vying to “stand out” from their competition by associating itself with a cause that may not actually resonate with its essence.”

On the other hand, Das believes that brands need to “Walk the Talk” in order to keep the consumer retained. He adds that, “Everyone knows the issues. It’s about how you can solve for them. And brands need to be authentic and genuine in their efforts on that front.”

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Sanstuti Nath

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