One can't help but take notice when the person who is considered the originator of cause marketing says it is dead as we know it. Of course I agree with Carol Cone, founder of Cone and now representing Edelman. In June, AdAge ran a column I penned and headlined it "The Day Cause Marketing Died." We are essentially saying the same thing. But in the rush to get headlines, maybe our real point was missed by some.
Cause is not dying. It is evolving. But there are those who have come late to the party and believe they are doing cause when in fact they are not. For some in corporate leadership today, cause is a box they are checking off on a list so they can say they are doing it. For those companies who are interested in doing more than checking off a box, cause is a wide open arena of possibility to demonstrate to customers, employees and all key stakeholders that they actually do want to make a difference over the long term.
For so long now, there has been a belief among brands that cause programs were successful if they made people feel good about their brands. What we now know is that the best cause programs make people feel good about themselves. When that happens, brands will be rewarded in a way that nothing else they do can achieve.
And if those same companies are paying attention, they now know that men are attracted to brands doing cause right almost as much as women. Our just released Barkley/PRWeek Cause Survey also says that even though men will buy, refer and support brands that support causes in a real way, two out of three corporate CMO's are not planning on targeting men with cause programs. Another evolutionary turn for cause is teed up for brands that care.
Cause is maturing and these kinds of discussions are healthy for all of us to have. We all have a responsibility to make sure that cause does not die, but rather continues to evolve. When done right, it is the most powerful form of purposeful engagement a brand can have with its customers.