Digital Programs as a Cause Marketing Tactic

Cause Marketing will be changed by digital programs like the web, smartphones, social media, and especially location-based marketing services (when consumer marketing is done through smartphones based on a shopper’s location). Digital cause marketing programs utilize these online platforms to engage consumers around a cause and may unlock corporate donations or other benefits for causes.

Here’s how digital tools will change cause marketing and nonprofits:

  • The web is creating a new platform for nonprofit/for-profit partnerships. Online contests are engaging consumers where they “live” online and giving companies an alternative to in-store programs. Online round-up programs are bringing point-of-sale and purchase-triggered donations to e-tailers. With hundreds of millions of active users, Facebook has become the platform of choice for digital cause marketing campaigns for companies of all sizes.

  • Smartphones have made the web and your cause portable. Critics complain that cause marketing is too transactional and is more marketing than mission. Some shoppers don’t even know what cause they’re giving to at the register. They just want to give! Ideally, consumers should be able to connect with causes where they give, even if that’s a checkout line at the supermarket.

    The good news is that smartphones are making this a reality! Cutting-edge technology like QR codes allows consumers to use their smartphones with a free QR reader application to view all sorts of online content from websites and testimonials to pictures and video. When shoppers know what they’re supporting, it makes the cause, and the company’s support for it, more meaningfully.

    QR codes are offline hyperlinks to all types of content.
    QR codes are offline hyperlinks to all types of content.
  • Location-based services will put POS and PTD on the map. It is possible thatpoint-of-sale and purchase-triggered donations will be enhanced, if not eventually replaced, with location-based services (LBS) that use mobile technology to — among other things — target consumers when and where they shop.

    Scenario 1: You visit your local Target and use your smartphone to check-in on your favorite location-based service. “Welcome!” the screen says. “All this month you can support the Children’s Miracle Network at the register [point-of-sale]. When you do, you’ll save 5 percent off your total purchase today.”

    Scenario 2: You visit your local Target and check-in on your favorite location-based service. You get a list of all the pink products in the store that, when purchased, trigger a donation to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. As an additional incentive, if you use your smartphone to scan the barcodes of any specially pink products, a donation is made to Breast Cancer Research Foundation whether you buy them or not.

Location-based services won’t change cause marketing overnight. But its eventual impact will be important, dramatic, and beneficial to the field. While learning how to do POS and PTD will be important to your success as a local cause marketer, your future will hinge on your ability to integrate these traditional practices with the web, smartphones, and social media.

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