Marketing Your Brand to Millennials with a Cause

By Corey Padveen

After you determine the cause that Millennials will associate with your brand, you’re ready to start developing the materials that will work with your cause marketing. Remember that cause marketing can be something that is associated with your brand in perpetuity, or it can be something that your brand is participating in while it’s relevant to the community. Regardless of the approach, you need to put together a strategy that aligns your brand with the selected cause.

Establishing objectives associated with your brand and the cause

The cause marketing strategy you develop can have both short- and long-term objectives. These objectives may vary from one campaign or cause to the next. For example, a primary objective in participating in a viral cause, such as the Ice Bucket Challenge, may be entirely altruistic. You may simply want to raise awareness and money for a good cause, so your objective is to participate in the campaign to do exactly that. This motivation is the kind you need to have for any cause marketing initiative in which you participate if you want it to have an impact from a business standpoint.

The primary objective of any cause-related campaign is to benefit the cause. The short- and long-term business goals should be secondary to the greater good. This primary objective should be obvious to your Millennial audience.

Considering your business goals regarding cause alignment is also important.

Brand awareness

Cause marketing provides you with an entirely new theme around which to create content that you know interests your audience. Creating this kind of relatable content bolsters your brand’s exposure in key Millennial markets. It also has the potential to significantly increase brand awareness among audience members participating in that conversation.

Relationship nurturing

If you’ve already cultivated a Millennial audience and you want to build on key relationships, then cause marketing may help you achieve that goal. According to a study by PR firm Cone Communications entitled “Cause Evolution,” 85 percent of consumers think more highly of a brand that supports a cause that matters to them. By showcasing your support for a particular cause, you’ll nurture relationships with your key demographic.

Decreased conversion time

One of the strategies that online auction and retail giant eBay has implemented to prevent cart abandonment (when potential shoppers fill a cart online with goods and then leave the website before completing the purchase.) is the integration of donation options at checkout. According to the eBay study entitled “Integrating Cause and Commerce,” when buyers are given the opportunity to donate during checkout, they’re more likely to complete their transactions. In fact, these sellers see a 29 percent increase in sales in the same period as those without the option to donate to a cause.

Shortening the buying cycle by introducing a cause is a particularly valuable tactic to use in both the short and long term. This technique can be particularly useful to brands that have long buyer journeys.

Growth of customer loyalty

In the eBay study entitled “Integrating Cause and Commerce,” the organization found that sellers saw a 50 percent decrease in churn rate. This reduction represents people who left from one transactional period to the next when a cause was integrated into the buying journey.

Churn rate is the rate at which customers stop buying from a brand or terminate their subscription. It is an important metric of customer loyalty and value.

As you know, Millennials in particular prefer to associate with brands that align themselves with important causes. Doing so not only means that your brand is helping a particular initiative that matters to you, but it also benefits you in the long run by improving customer loyalty.

Leveraging cause marketing for brand growth

Building your brand around association with a cause can be a useful strategy, but it can mean inextricably linking your brand to the cause. Some of the largest companies in the world build their brands without associating directly with a cause. Global retailers like Gap and Nike approach cause marketing from the perspective of associating with a cause only in some key areas as opposed to making it the focal point of the organization.

For example, Gap owns several brands, including Banana Republic and Old Navy, and isn’t necessarily associated only with cause marketing efforts. The majority of Gap customers, however, are familiar with the brand’s association with the Product (Red) initiative, which aims to help eradicate AIDS in Africa. Several brands, including Nike, American Express, Converse, and others have licensed the Product (Red) theme and linked their brands to the cause.

The strategy of associating your brand with a cause greater than your industry, as those big, public companies have done, is a good way to achieve a few objectives related to brand growth:

  • You enter into a group with big players. When it comes to a cause, big organizations like Gap or American Express may be participating, as well as smaller ones, like the entrepreneur’s small business association. The size of the players may change, but the league in which they’re playing remains the same. Leveraging a cause that is nationally or even globally recognized means increased exposure, and that exposure is certainly useful when it comes to building your company’s presence.
  • Your product line or service offering expands. In the case of Livestrong or other causes that have a product or service that you can sell, it allows you to expand your offerings. While this expansion not be a primary source of revenue, you can be assured that the potential for discoverability by a target audience is improved.
  • You reach new markets that may have otherwise been unreachable. With so much online marketing noise, traditional marketing campaigns may understandably not reach a lot of prospects. So much is going on that a brand can easily be ignored, even if the prospect is a perfect fit. Aligning yourself with a cause can rescue lost prospects by appealing to them from a different angle.