By Viktoria de Chevron Villette, Co-Founder, Millennial 20/20
Cause marketing in itself is not new, but the heightened awareness and response of the always connected and informed millennial consumer is creating a more sustainable and CSR conscious world, which is what is creating larger and up-tapped opportunities.
If your business or brand doesn’t stand for a cause, consumers may turn to your competitors. According to the 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study more than 9 in 10 (91%) millennials would switch brands choosing the one associated with a cause, and two-thirds (66%) use social media to voice opinions and engage around CSR. Millennials, millennial founders and their start ups in a short period of time have already built game changing, mega successful social enterprises and contributed to some of the most successful social driven campaigns.
Cause marketing has evolved and taken on many diverse faces anywhere from a simple yet hugely successful global campaign, from the “Ice bucket challenge” to the response to the Syrian crisis by companies such as Uber and Arsenal, who are contributing to generate awareness and encouraging donations.
Relevance of the cause, allowance for personalisation and content shareability, combined with companies presenting a clear CSR vision is critical when it comes to a successful and fruitful partnership.
Responding to the cause
Thinking on your feet, being reactive as well as being proactive in a timely manner is crucial when it comes to “crisis” situations. Such immediate response with unexpected situations can show the true face of companies which take CSR seriously.
Syria’s civil war is the worst humanitarian disaster of our time, with millions of people suffering. This has challenged a number of big companies to respond and shape the conversation of this very sensitive topic.
Billion-dollar tech start-up, Uber, is acting in an agile and millennial way by launching “UberGIVING”. In partnership with Save the Children, this pan- European initiative, available in 20 countries offers a free service, collecting donations and taking then to local shops. The funds raised from all sales are used to fund Save The Children’s work, and their Child Refugee Crisis Appeal which supports thousands of children affected by the refugee crisis. Uber claims they have “collected enough donations to fill 10 shipping containers”.
This crisis has also seen Arsenal becoming the first Premier League team to seriously step up their efforts to help Syrian refugees. The club announced that £1 from every ticket sold at one of their football matches would go to the Save the Children charity.
Social Cause Engraved in Company DNA
“Social enterprise is now mainstream. In years past, it was a niche offshoot of the non-profit world. Today, it is front and centre.” Neil Blumenthal, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Warby Parker.
Warby Parker is what is known as a One-for-One business. The model is simple - for every product sold another is donated to someone in need - “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair”. This was pioneered most successfully by shoe manufacturers such as TOMS who, since 2006, has put 10 million pairs shoes on children’s feet in over 60 countries.
Warby Parker has seen a meteoric rise and is now the number one glasses supplier to hipsters in their 20s. Having distributed 1million pairs of eyeglasses to people in meed, the company is valued at $1.2 billion, as of April 2015. Unlike a stand alone campaign this is a great example of a start up with social and cause marketing engraved in their DNA.
Cause marketing campaigns
There’s a reason ‘marketing’ is part of cause marketing. In August 2014, the ALS Association released a statement on the 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge - the social media-powered video challenge, where participants pour a bucket of ice water on their heads and dare others to donate for the cause. In the statement they reported, “As of Wednesday, August 27, The ALS Association has received $94.3 million in donations compared to $2.7 million during the same [month-long] time period last year.”
This is an astonishing 3000% increase ($2.7 million to $94.3 million) because of a ‘lightweight campaign’. The increase in donations, which the ALS attributed heavily to the Ice Bucket Challenge, included those from an incredible 2.1 million new donors taking action for the first time. The combination of competitiveness, social media pressure, online narcissism, and low barriers to entry led to more than 2.4 million tagged videos circulating Facebook.
In an age when social media has made us even more aware of how we look at any given moment, asking women to take photos of themselves without makeup and upload them to social channels seems risky. The #nomakeupselfie campaign, which began with people posting images of themselves without make up on social networks, wasn’t started by Cancer Research but their social media team quickly got involved and asked people to donate via text. The campaign raised £8m in just one week. This kind of grassroots viral campaign is impossible to replicate but charities of all sizes can position themselves to take advantage of the next social media phenomenon by responding rapidly and creating a sense of community around the movement.
The next generation of cause marketing is an actual innovative “cause product”
Pavegen is a pioneering technology company founded in 2009 that creates flooring that harnesses the energy of footsteps. The technology has been installed in over 100 projects in more than 30 countries and can be found in train stations, shopping centres, airports and public spaces.
Led by millennial founder Laurence Kemball-Cook, the company has created a product looking straight into our more sustainable and CSR responsible future. Pavegen’s largest installation to date is in partnership with Shell, in a local football pitch in Morro da Mineira, Rio de Janeiro. Pavegen tiles work day and night alongside solar panels to power the lights for up to 10 hours on a full battery, creating the world’s first ever people-powered football pitch. This first-of-a-kind energy solution is a source of global inspiration, empowering action through sport as well as providing a tangible off-grid power supply that benefits a whole community.
Their success and support was imminent starting from their crowdfunding campaign whereby their £750,000 target was reached in just 59 hours of going live and raising a total of £1.92m from 1500 online investors.
To be effective, companies must not only create meaningful, sustainable cause-related programs, but also consistently engage millennials and clearly communicate the impact of those campaigns. Millennials are more likely to pay attention to a company’s message if that company has a deep commitment to a cause, but in order for that message to resonate with millennials, the commitment needs to be authentic and relevant to both the brand and the consumer.