There’s a secret Madison Avenue doesn’t want you to know: Worthy-cause marketing can beat conventional advertising for many products, because it gives buyers political and social reasons to buy your product and remain loyal to your brand – and it’s more cost effective.
Worthy-cause marketing is different from charitable giving or cause marketing. It is essentially the alignment of your company with worthy causes. You get involved with a nonprofit and help them raise funds in turn for them spreading the word about your product, brand, and company. Here are some of the basic concepts of Worthy Cause Marketing.
1. Worthy-cause marketing is a different approach to network marketing. Cause marketing is based on the idea that your brand earns “points” with the general public by supporting a charitable cause. Charitable giving is based on the concept that you can tout your charitable donations. With worthy-cause marketing, your company aligns itself with the goals of the worthy causes you support.
2. Worthy-cause marketing is bigger than any one charitable or nonprofit group. Worthy causes include broad issues like clean water, clean beaches, children, homeless, conservation, education, AIDS treatments and prevention, civil rights, health issues, music and the arts, feeding the hungry, senior care, and many, many more. Within each worthy cause, there are many individual local and national nonprofit groups that address that particular issue.
3. Choose a cause that resonates with your brand. Subaru supports the American Canoe Association, the American Association of Snowboard Instructors, the International Mountain Bicycling Association, and other groups that are meaningful to the folks who buy Subaru’s cars – which, by the way, come with racks for canoes, bikes, and snowboards.
4. Go small and local. Small and local groups are much more loyal to their supporters, especially in their early-stage. Larger groups tend to demand more money. Some also play one company against another, essentially auctioning off their sponsorship each year. By choosing small groups, you get to work with them over the years, and they become part of your brand’s DNA. Also, you may have to go out on a limb, but you’ll receive the greatest loyalty from marginalized causes and groups that your company backs.
5. Do more than just donate. Make public appearances. Send staff to help at fundraisers. Help the nonprofit gain publicity. Talk about their cause in the marketplace, with your vendors, distributors, and contracted services – people the nonprofits would love to reach. Put their logo on your product, your company website, and your company newsletter. If you produce consumables or a service, you can donate them to their fundraiser to be auctioned off.
6. Unlike in charitable giving and cause marketing, ask the nonprofit to do some things that they can readily do. Ask to trade logos, provide links to each other on your respective websites, and make announcements in their newsletter about your sponsorship of their upcoming fundraiser. At fundraisers, ask that they give you recognition. Provide flyers that explain who you are and what you do. Say why you support the cause, what you donated in terms of time, money, and products, and where they can purchase your product. The things you ask for should cost the non-profit no money.
Growing the Barefoot Wine brand, we did no advertising, and used only worthy-cause marketing. Many of their members became loyal customers.
Of course, there’s much more that could be said on this subject. What’s been your experience? Michael Houlihan, co-founder of Barefoot Wine, the largest selling wine brand in the nation, invites you to join the discussion on Worthy-Cause Marketing with your comments, thoughts, and opinions below.
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders