Cause branding is one age old strategy which works magic in improving a brand’s corporate reputation and the brand’s sentiment to customers. Nevertheless, as magical as this can be, not every reckless swing of the magic wand delivers the expected result.
When branding a cause, good intentions are never good enough. Branding a cause requires more than just one simple move in the direction of a social cause. It goes beyond one cause marketing campaign tied to a brand’s Corporate Social Responsibility scheme. Cause branding is more or less a careful process which is achieved through well executed cause and marketing campaigns. Branding is about identity and all its benefits. Branding a cause triggers goodwill in consumers and in turn make them (subconsciously) to see the brand as an angel or messiah brand.
This may not be so popular right now Nigeria as marketing and communication agencies focus more on direct, consumer goods and services marketing. Ad agencies may avoid this tactic due to its delicate and dicey nature, as consumers are generally easily skeptical and suspicious of this marketing approach. Also adding to its 'difficulty', cause branding earns the organisation, mostly more social impact which may not translate to readily convertible financial impact.
Two magic words do the trick when delivering this approach – Genuineness and sincerity. Once consumers can perceive genuineness and sincerity in a branded cause then the trick is done. When a company takes up a cause, the direct marketing of its product and services is secondary (if not tertiary), any attempt to bridge this, endangers the company’s move to being labelled cause washing.
Branding a social cause requires powerful storytelling, with a creative and compelling narrative, enough to evoke the right emotion tied to the cause in consumers. It also should be noted that some social causes like children welfare, maternity and health are a lot easier to push than others because of the geographic and demographic advantage. In as much as some causes have a way pulling ones heartstrings, the less emotionally inclined causes deserve attention too. Branded causes may or may not be related to a brand’s product. "Sadvertising" as popular as it is with this approach may not always be the way. Adopted causes may just simply reflect the company’s or organization’s core values. Once a cause is taken up, it must be pursued till obvious impact is felt. Half ran cause campaigns are easily labelled as cause washing.
Some brands have taken up causes and championed them for social good using compelling and creative story telling, here are some examples;
Always - Gender Equality
Jason Tiles - Disability friendly architecture
Boat Float - Children Education
Turtle - Wildlife Conservation and Environment
In a different direction, Power oil, a vegetable oil brand in Nigeria is taking the health of Nigerians to heart while projecting the product’s unique selling proposition. The brand boosts itself to be a healthier option, good for the heart of their consumers. This type of cause branding works so perfectly for the brand, as the cause is directly tied to the brand. Power oil while catering to the health of their customers through awareness, exercising activities, counselling and advisory services, makes more sales.
Before now, one might do an untidy job with cause branding and get away with it, but in this era of information and rapid internet use, any untidy job of this sort will be called out, leaving the brand’s image and effort in the mud. This is in addition to the fact that consumers are becoming fed up with fake, pretentious gimmicks benefiting companies more other than the causes they pretend to be championing.