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Cause Based Marketing (CBM) is the process of marketing an idea, goal or cause rather than a product or service. P&G has often set the benchmark for this in their Olympic commercials:
CBM has traditionally been associated as a luxury for brands, with most choosing to focus on marketing that drives sales and their bottom line. However, this should not be the case when targeting Gen Zs. In 2019, Facebook commissioned a global study of 11,000 Gen Zs and found that 68% of them expected brands to contribute to society.
The cause can vary. The same study also reported that 61% of Gen Zs are willing to pay more for a product that was created ethically or sustainable, while 77% felt more positive towards a brand that promoted gender equality.
The case is clear – in 2020, brands expecting to win with Gen Zs should practice CBM. We’ve put together some tips that can help you get started.
Understand the Gaps in Your Category
The clothing industry has long received criticism for the lack of plus-size options and promotion of unrealistic body images, especially in the area of undergarments. Even lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret could not escape this.
Understanding this, Aerie, a brand under the American Eagle umbrella started using models of all shapes and sizes since 2014 and stopped photoshopping their images in 2016.
The result? Aerie grew sales by 23% in 2019, almost 8 times more than their parent company in the same period. They understood their category, consumers and most importantly, the gaps in between.
Whichever category you are in, begin your CBM plan by looking out for the potential gaps and roles your brand can play to fill them.
Trust Your Customer
When it comes to CBM, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. What may come across negatively to one audience, may just resonate strongly with Gen Zs. Look no further than Nike’s 2018 “Dream Crazy” campaign.
It started with the use of American football star Colin Kapernick, criticised by many for his choice to kneel during the American National Anthem as a protest towards police brutality, as the face of the campaign. To say it received negative feedback was an understatement. People who said they “could not live without the brand” (or brand loyalists) dropped by almost a third.
Share prices dropped 5% the day after the ad was released. Then the real target audiences started responding. Nike gained 170,000 followers on Instagram shortly after releasing their campaign. Then, their share price hit an all-time high after Gen Zs said that they would buy Nike more after seeing the advertisement.
In 2019, the ad won an Emmy for outstanding commercial and the Dream Crazy campaign continues.
During the process of planning your CBM, the cause may not resonate with those around you, but remember to place your customers first. Design the campaign with them in mind, and trust that they will respond accordingly.
Pick Something and Stick With It
The best CBM campaigns are those that are revisited each year and talked about for years after. Take Dove’s Real Beauty campaign for example. Starting in 2004, it was a campaign that carried Dove into the next decade, allowing them to stand out from their competitors by championing body positivity and women’s confidence.
Today, 53% of Gen Zs associate the brand Dove with body positivity, more than any other brand. Not a bad place to be considering the rising trend of body positivity as a cause.
Picking a cause to align your brand with can be challenging, but when you find one it is important to stick with it. Switching often or jumping on bandwagons may result in Gen Zs feeling that your brand is only investing in CBM to turn a quick profit.
Find Out Which Causes Are Taboo
CBM can be a challenge because not all causes will be perceived by the audience as intended. In some cases, the cause may be seen as inappropriate or try-hard in spite of the brand’s original intent. Take this fail from Mastercard as part of their 2018 FIFA World Cup sponsorship (which is worth millions of dollars).
Mastercard produced an ad with copy committing that they would be the one donating the food to the 10,000 children for each goal scored by Messi or Neymar Junior. On the surface and in the boardroom this probably sounded like a great idea, however, the internet did not respond accordingly. The campaign drew criticism on Twitter for trying to turn something noble into a campaign for brand building purposes.
Despite going through many levels of approval before the campaign went live, the response of the internet was still not anticipated – to little to no fault of Mastercard’s team. The internet is a volatile place. Preferences change and what is taboo today may not be so tomorrow.
Marketers intending to practice CBM should start by understanding their audiences and the space they will execute in. It is no easy task, but if done right, will deliver huge wins in the Gen Z or Millennial segment.