Sunday, June 9, 2013

How Philanthropy Can Drive Your Brand

In The Surfer's Guide To Marketing, we discuss how to utilize philanthropy in an effort to drive your branding.  As surfers, we can look at ENVIRONMENTALISTS (as our example of people who engage in charitable efforts or causes) because they obviously have a higher interest in preserving their oceans than the average citizen.  So with that as our model, we can associate those who practice activism for whatever relevant cause, to our coastal ENVIRONMENTALISTS.

Utilizing cause marketing or charity to build awareness for a corporate organization can be tricky.  But there are some guidelines to observe to ensure that your efforts, while set against a corporate agenda, still provide an acceptable amount of good will.  After all, it's ok for a company to "get credit" for their charitable efforts just so long as it is an authentic, endemic campaign.  It must produce genuine results and not try to boast more than they merit.  Consumers are savvy and can see through thinly-veiled efforts to appear sincere.  

The two rules of thumb I invoke when creating a philanthropic effort are:

1) The charity is true, real, and genuinely benefits from the effort.  There are examples of big corporations “creating” philanthropy or instituting a good will effort only to have the transparent excuse for marketing backfire.  If you want to devote resources, time, effort, dollars, etc. to a cause, then you must truly believe in the cause.  And make a solid effort.

2) Developing a cause campaign or aligning with
an existing charity must be a natural partnership that is organic in nature and forms a positive, logical combination for the brand.  
If your brand is in no way involved in cancer research for example, or there isn't a personal element or story to it, then perhaps your company shouldn't select that organization to support.  It's not that supporting generic causes are a bad thing, but it makes for a more seamless story for the consumer if there is a logical connection.  Now, if the CEO's mother fought the disease or they have a similar story that puts the brand in the middle of the cause, then it's instantly credible.  Simply put, select a cause that motivates your consumers because the involvement is organic and relevant to your product or service.

A current example of an organization doing a good will effort that will surely pay exponential dividends is one that is near and dear to me personally.  The Arizona Diamondbacks recently drafted Arizona State's Cory Hahn with the 34th pick in last week's draft.  While not unusual if you didn't know the story, the effort made becomes extraordinary when you learn about the draft pick himself.  Three games into his college baseball career at Arizona State University, Cory (who wore number 34) was involved in a freak play that left him with a broken neck, paralyzed from the waste down.  Despite the tragic injury, Cory continues to excel as a student, friend, and "teammate" with his former roster mates.

Former ASU Player Cory Hahn

The Diamondbacks honored his courage and attitude by using a pick on him to show their appreciation and fulfill the former athlete's dream.  While in actuality, the gesture only "cost" the brand (in this case the D-backs) a 34th round pick, the value one can assign to the effort will come back incrementally higher.  It's a great way to do a good deed in the community and have that limited activation pay larger dividends.  

So while I in no means imply that they did it just for the publicity, I'm sure the front office is not against all of the attention, positive social media, overwhelming community support, and becoming the focus of certain marketing blog's subject.   (FYI, having suffered a neck injury myself and as a Sun Devil alum, I can relate to this story on many levels!)

In The Surfer's Guide To Marketing, there is an entire chapter dedicated to ENVIRONMENTALISTS, or the proper ways to integrate cause marketing into your mix.  It can be done cost-effectively, organically, and help drive your brand while giving back to the community.  We discuss everything from corporate partners who help out during disasters to celebrities like Drew Brees who create foundations to give back.  Check out the book for a complete discussion of how you can gain valuable exposure while helping make other people's lives better.  And in the meantime, forward along this article to show your support for the home run the Diamondbacks hit with their selection of Cory!

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