Consumers expect social responsibility, even when there’s no time to prepare.
In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are scrambling to figure out what they believe in. What they stand for.
Consumers are standing by waiting. Listening for their response. And judging whether it was the right one. A response based not only on their own personal beliefs, but also on what the brand has historically said they stand for.
One of the first emails I received announcing their global store closure was from – no surprise – a brand I already love and trust: Lush.
But why do I love and trust them? Because we stand for the same beliefs.
And I knew I could count on them to make the right decision, even in the midst of this global crisis, to protect their employees and customers. Even when it wasn’t necessarily immediately good for their bottom line.
Lush Cosmetics released a public statement this week, saying, “as a company that cares deeply about protecting people, animals and the planet, we believe it’s our duty to look after each other and those around us during challenging times such as these.”
A number of other brands have fallen in this category, as highlighted by the World Economic Forum.
Chobani is delivering its products to families who rely on school lunches, declaring that "now is the time for businesses to step up and do what we can to help and support our neighbors." Starbucks just announced it will expand mental health benefits to include up to 20 therapy sessions for all employees. Lululemon, which is temporarily shutting down all stores in North America, will continue to pay employees and provide access to a pay relief fund.
Microsoft is committing to pay its hourly workers their regular pay, even as demand for their services slows down, and Walmart, Apple, and Olive Garden are updating their sick leave policies to provide additional coverage and support for their most vulnerable workers.
Quite a few brands have also pleasantly surprised us, like Roche Brothers & Market Basket being among the first of grocery store chains to initiate “designated senior hours” to help keep senior citizens – who are at the highest risk of contracting this virus – safe.
Still, there were some who had more disappointing responses, like Jeff Bezos refusing to give paid sick leave to Whole Foods employees.
Super Bowl Sunday cause marketing is no longer enough. Brands need to share and reinforce their purpose all the time.
Right now, the public, like me, has a sharpened awareness of what it means for the brands they buy from to “do the right thing.” Or as Millennials and Gen Z call it: to be “socially responsible.”
In today's age of Amazon, consumers are flooded with messages every day about how awesome brands' products are. And in this time of global crisis, brands are feeling the pressure more than ever to be delicate in their messaging. To ensure they don’t send distasteful marketing pushes. To make sure they don’t come off as insensitive. Unresponsive. Ignorant. Offensive. Not “woke” enough.
All the trends have been pointing to the fact that building brand differentiation off of product features alone isn’t working anymore. Having a great product is no longer enough, especially in the crowded, commoditized CPG markets, to build long-lasting brands that capture the attention and wallets of today's consumers.
Or as we like to call it here at Because, hearts 💕 and minds. 🧠
In fact, our Customer Strategy Advisor, the Former Head of Marketing from one the world’s most purpose-driven brands, Unilever, claims the perfect marketing mix should be 60% product to 40% purpose.
Why? Because Millennials and Gen Z, making up over 1/3 of the U.S. population and trillions in annual spending, are dictating different terms.
Many researchers are going so far as to call them belief-driven buyers. Not only do they buy from brands who stand for the same social and environmental issues as they do, but they also avoid and boycott brands who do not.
And the current pandemic is proving just that. Consumers are watching, and they’re forming their opinions. So when the world turns back to normal, they’ll remember how you responded.
If you think you’re in the clear because you don’t sell to Millennials, this belief-driven consumer behavior is extending well beyond VSCO girls with their checkered Vans, Hydro Flask water bottles, Pura Vida bracelets, and...Crocs? (not sure how those came back in style 🤔 but…)
According to Edelman’s Earned Brand Report, belief-driven buyers are now the majority in every market, across all income levels and all ages. 64% of buyers are making their buying and loyalty decisions based on beliefs.
Millennials aren’t the only ones paying attention. Everyone is.
Most marketers have been generally aware of this shift and have been making attempts at this thing many would call “cause marketing.” But the fundamentals of what makes up traditional cause marketing have gotten a really bad rep…
You know, the type of marketing that marketers only do once a year.
You’ve all seen the Super Bowl Sunday cause marketing commercials. Here are a couple examples from this year (mixed reviews as always):
Olay's “Make Space for Women” campaign
Michelob’s "6 for 6-Pack" campaign
According to Money.com, CBS sold Super Bowl 2019 commercial spots to the tune of $5.1 to $5.3 million (as first reported by Bloomberg). Each of these short commercials (averaging around only 30 seconds each) takes an extensive amount of time, human resources, and well-researched content by PR and marketing agencies.
Millions and millions of dollars are being dedicated to one 30-second feature out of the 31,536,000 total seconds in a year.
The problem with this approach to cause marketing is that brands aren’t investing in establishing a true connection between their consumers and their brand purpose on an ongoing basis.
And even if you’re not a big brand getting into the Super Bowl Sunday game, you’re still likely taking a similar cause marketing approach that has the following issues...
What’s wrong with cause marketing today?
Problem #1: Frequency
Consumers are forming their opinions quickly, which means that brands no longer have time to spend months preparing their response to an issue or deciding where they stand. They have to act quickly, because consumers will move on, and their attention, headspace, and love will be lost to your competitor.
Activists, influencers, policymakers, consumers, and even a brand's own employees are pushing the causes and beliefs that matter to them every single day, across platforms like Twitter, Change.org, Facebook Birthday Fundraisers, and Tik Tok for Good (yes that’s a thing🤣).
Brands need to show their community they don't just care about purpose when it's convenient. They need to be involved in the conversation just as frequently as everyone else. In practice, it sounds simple, but brands fall on their face over and over again when it comes to living up to this lofty responsibility.
Problem #2: Relevancy
Often, when brands develop cause marketing campaigns for Super Bowl Sunday or the like, the challenge is whether or not their audience will resonate with the cause they chose. This leads brands to choose huge causes in an attempt to ensure the largest number of people will be in agreement with them. This challenge of relevancy comes not just with the messaging and the cause that’s being talked about, but also where brands are sharing their story.
This is what’s innately wrong with Super Bowl Sunday cause marketing campaigns – they force brands into a “wide net” approach, hoping they will capture hearts and minds in a massive crowd of diverse demographics, interests, and beliefs. Brands feel pressure to adapt their beliefs to the masses, which only leads us to the next problem.
Problem #3: Authenticity
The final problem with traditional cause marketing is – you guessed it – authenticity. When brands spray their infrequent, wide net message to the masses, how can they ever expect to achieve authenticity? They can’t.
Today’s consumers are B.S. detectors, and they can immediately sense when a brand message isn’t authentic or doesn’t have genuine intentions. Authenticity is difficult to achieve, but it’s absolutely crucial to your brand health.
So... Now we’ve covered what’s wrong with cause marketing. But how do we fix it? What’s next?
The Rise of Belief Marketing
Here at Boston-based startup Because, we are excited to be leading the next movement in marketing: Belief Marketing.
To help purpose-driven organizations win the hearts and minds of their followers every single day.
Some might call it “always-on” cause marketing, but we just look at it as the right way to do things.
Corporate social responsibility is at the core of everyday life right now. It’s everywhere we turn. Brands like Lush and Chobani that already subscribe to being socially responsible are not afraid to act quickly in a time of crisis to stand behind their mission.
They didn’t need to “prepare,” because they already know what they stand for. They talk about it in everything they do.
It’s not a cause they donated to once. It’s their beliefs. What they stand for. Who they are as a brand.
That’s what we call Belief Marketing. And we’re working to make it possible for all brands, regardless of what step of your purpose journey you’re on.
If this blog got you fired up to drive measurable brand change at your organization and you want to learn how you can capitalize on the microinfluencer-led cause conversations happening every single day across social media, we’d love to chat about our brand new Belief Marketing platform.
We’re looking for purpose-driven (or aspiring purpose-driven) brands to join us in leading the next movement in marketing. Grab a time on our calendar here and we’ll get to chatting about your immediate opportunities to share your brand’s beliefs. 😄
To check out other brands doing a great job at this next wave of marketing, follow us here on Twitter or LinkedIn.
To learn more about Because Intelligence and the first ever “always-on” cause marketing platform to hit the marketing industry, check out our blurb below. 😉
Because Intelligence helps purpose-driven organizations in crowded markets who are looking for ways to differentiate their brand and capture the hearts and minds of their consumers.
Here's how our platform works:
1. By identifying the most relevant influencer-led cause conversations every day, Because helps you share your brand voice across social networks well beyond a single post to your followers.
2. You may be familiar with influencers who work for a set period of time and money. Because is turning this model on its head to instead help you get daily organic promotion of your "do-good" stories.
3. Because helps you move away from pushing product features or prices (like your competitors do), and instead, achieve long-lasting authentic brand connections with your consumers based on beliefs, not features.
Learn more by chatting with us or shooting us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.