Partnerships between brands and causes have potential to be massive wins for both parties. Executing cause partnerships well requires a bit of art, a bit of science and extremely transparent and open communication by all involved parties. Both parties should start with what they have to offer of value to the other partners versus what they are looking to receive from them. We are seeing that our clients and other industry leaders are increasingly benefitting through these partnerships. When authentically aligned and delivered, they have the ability to have tremendous positive impact on both the social and economic objectives of the partnerships.
More Than Dollars
For many brands, cause partnerships involve donating products or services and not just writing a cheque. Writing a cheque is quickest path forward and the funds are certainly needed on the cause side. Genuinely integrated partnerships though are as a whole producing much higher returns and the longevity of the impact and program is lengthened. If brands take the time to find out what keeps their partners up at night beyond just the financial constraints, they can often uncover further potential to have greater impact and build the integration throughout the organization. Our VP of Strategy Cause and Public Sector, Tracy Culleton, shared her insights.
“Corporate philanthropy was once considered the only obligation of an organization to be considered socially responsible. A shift in consumer expectations has increased these demands. Consumers are now expecting corporations to take on a leadership role in improving the world and supporting causes. Consumers are looking for organizations to participate in ways that deliver a measurable impact. As a result, organizations who have embraced this approach have experienced benefits, including employee engagement, increased brand awareness, increased sales, customer loyalty, and organizational growth.”
Consumers are very well informed. Social activism is on the rise and an increasing number of brands are aligning themselves with causes. However, it is not enough for brands to simply donate money anymore. The millennials and gen Z expect more from these brands which means brands need to do more than write cheques when it comes to cause partnerships. Depending on the study, up to 91% on millennials and gen Z will switch brands to support those who they feel have social values and actions that align with their own. When I started doing research for this article, I realized that there isn’t much information as to why consumers find authentic cause partnerships important, just that they increasingly do. I decided I would employ the help of our EVP and Partner, Laura Richard, to ask for her opinion on the question. She shared some key insights.
”In the same way that consumers look to align personally with causes that they believe represent their belief systems, they want to see the same authenticity in brand-cause alignment and implementation. Furthermore, a consumer’s attachment to a brand, whether for-profit or cause, is in an ideal world an authentic representation of who they are and what they stand for. So, regardless of whether a consumer starts with the cause to get to the for-profit brand or starts from the brand offering them a product or service to get to the cause, it is imperative that authenticity exists or the consumer will lose their trust in the brand.”
If a brand is simply looking to partner with a cause so they can be seen as “charitable” – they’ll actually be doing the opposite. Consumers see right through the partnership if it does not align with the brand’s core values and past and present actions across the organization.
As our Group President and CEO James Chalmers said in one of our previous blogs “We All Have Impact Potential” (https://goo.gl/mWq2zm) here at TACK10, community is the pillar that we tend to place the most focus on. It is not that other pillars like environmental sustainability are not important, but for James, community is the pillar that aligns with the impact he personally wants to have and is the most challenging for our company to instigate change in. The decision to partner with a cause should be more than an aimless decision. Some partnerships are easy to understand, like Patagonia (https://goo.gl/QD2ko2) and the environment, as environmental sustainability is woven into their value proposition. However, some partnerships are not as clear. Take US industrial service company Baker Hughes (https://goo.gl/xUuY64) partnering with Susan G. Komen for the Cure (https://goo.gl/qA1P1C) to raise awareness about breast cancer. For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Baker Hughes decided to paint 1,000 of their gigantic drill bits pink. At the same time, the company launched 1,000 new fracking projects throughout the United States. This is a great example of “pinkwashing” and it is something that consumers are easily seeing through.
Donating money to causes is always good. It is however a double-edged sword because unpredictable donation patterns have the ability to hurt causes more than they help over the long term. Invest your time first in figuring out authentic alignment and then ask 1 simple question…what keeps you up at night? That is where every partnership should start.