It is encouraging to me how much more conversation there is about cause these days. For so many years, those of us engaged in the practice almost needed to bribe people just to get them to listen to us wax poetic about the wonders of cause marketing/branding. Today, the conversation has entered into the mainstream. And whenever that happens to a topic, it means the critics and skeptics increase in number.
The good thing about critics and skeptics is it makes those of us who believe in the core values of cause marketing check the mirror. That's a good thing. No idea lasts forever. No program can last forever without a constant commitment to keep it fresh. And with today's consumer dictating to those of us in marketing communications what content they want to hear and where they want to find it, our cause programs must be 100 % transparent.
Timothy Ogden wrote a piece for Forbes.com this week titled "How Cause Marketing Can Actually Backfire." In it Timothy underscores the importance of transparency and takes it a step further by imploring companies involved in cause to take transparency to a new level. His suggestions make sense. Ogden says companies must select charities based on their effectiveness.
Once they choose their nonprofit partners, he says companies should explain why they chose them and be specific about how much money is being raised. Most important, Ogden says companies must be exact about where the money is going and what it will do. Finally, companies should communicate after the program is complete to demonstrate to consumers that their commitment is ongoing.
I think Ogden is voicing the opinions of so many of us that work in the cause space day in and day out. I do have one caution for all of us. Since cause has just entered the mainstream of acceptability among a growing majority of companies, let's make sure we don't scare off those who have just entered the arena by making the cost of entry too high. We need to keep encouraging every company, large and small, to view cause as the win/win we all know it is. And we need to be willing to accept the fact all companies will not be ready to do it exactly how we would like them to do it from the start.
I just want to be sure that in the reality of the day to day battle that goes on in the marketplace, we don't discourage companies from employing cause marketing. Once we have them involved, we can make sure we show them the right way to do it. And what Ogden has spelled out is the right way.