Some call it "cause-related marketing." I like to think of it as "using our powers for good.” How are they different? The former starts with the need to sell a product and, in so doing, attaching that need to a worthy cause. Creating a halo for a brand by aligning with a charity can come off as a bit superficial — unless the cause is truly woven into the brand's DNA. Think TOMS Shoes. It was a business that was started to solve a problem: kids without shoes can't go to school. Kids who can't go to school can't improve their position in life, can't create self-sustaining communities, can't create viable regions, countries or continents. When TOMS sells a pair of shoes, they donate a pair of shoes – a cause that is truly woven into the brand’s DNA.
Using our powers as marketers for good may not result in a direct sale -- but it does build brands, companies and communities. Most importantly, it can build your personal brand, credentials and, dare I say, self. Think of all the good that is being done out there in the world; think about how noble efforts could be enhanced with some good old marketing spin. You may be a role player in a brand at work. You can make something big happen. And with results on your resume, you are more valuable to your company and your company is better off with you on their team.
I was inspired by a very simple and powerful statement from Morris Jacobs, one of the founders of Bozell Worldwide: "We must pay rent for the space we occupy on this earth." This statement led me to my work in hunger relief and other charitable causes. At Foodmix I work with some real cool companies that make markets and move mountains -- Coca-Cola, Kellogg's and Tyson. We do good work, but we do not change their worlds. We are small cogs in huge wheels and thinking anything else would be arrogant. But, I have learned and developed credentials by working with those companies, and that has enabled me to help generate millions of pounds of food for the hungry.
Cause-related marketing is important to many charities. Placing a charity logo on a package and donating is great. But if you dig a little deeper, and get more involved in the cause, everyone wins. Big problems can be solved by a series of little efforts, and it's why I believe that as marketers we can help change the world, one little deed at a time – using our marketing powers for good.
Founder and president of Foodmix Marketing Communications, Dan O'Connell drives the strategic process for clients in virtually every channel where food is sold or served.