by Poonam Balan
Say 'pink' and we think breast cancer, say 'ice bucket' and we think of all the daring souls we saw soaking themselves for ALS care and research - a cause we all need to be more aware of! This global phenomenon of what is really a freezing shotgun-dump-to-the-head, raised USD $115 million in 2014 alone. What was meant to be a one-time awareness campaign, has now turned into an annual trending of #EveryAugustUntilACure.
The 'Think Pink' slogan has been re-purposed and evolved into a slew of locally relevant efforts. From its largely American-led breast cancer awareness catchphrase roots, it has even become the name of an Australian based foundation which promotes a healthy list of much needed services to aid - not just patients, but the family members of those battling breast cancer. Despite the popularity of the catchphrase, the Think Pink Foundation in Australia is clearly trying to differentiate itself from the sea of cause marketing efforts, which comes to mind at the utterance of these two words. This is just another example of the global hold - a simple awareness campaign can have. Like the Think Pink Foundation in Australia, there are many more localized versions of organizations riding on these already trending keywords. It makes perfect SEO sense!
In the eyes of a non-marketer, these re-purposed call-to-action campaigns may not seem to be the most clearly positioned efforts, but the marketing community will beg to differ. In this day and age, its all about the business of implanting a thought into your minds, which will either provoke a stream of conscious add on by yourself - heightening what has already been said with another perspective, or it moves you just enough to pull your credit card out and make that contribution, or purchase.
Marketers on the other hand live in a world that can be as isolating and misleading as the truth-seeking field of science. In marketing speak, your time spent on a site (Average Time Spent on Site), your clicks (Click Through Rates), your actions (Conversions), and your return (Return Visit Rate) are some the most basic yet earth-shattering pieces of quantified data - that could make or break a career.
Similar to these somewhat antagonistic perspectives, the world of for-profit and not-for-profit hasn't seen enough opportunities for convergence. It does take all sides to make something whole, but somewhere along the way we may have just lost sight of the reasons why we first embarked on more conscious and progressive efforts, irregardless of which side of the fence we represent.
The danger in cause marketing taking such popularized hold in certain situations is that the audience may not be able to clearly differentiate between an entity driven by sales or actual sustained impact. The mission statement of a for-profit differs vastly from a not-for-profit, and awards like the Golden Halo may be given to entities that are not in fact quite comparable. The impact an organization can have largely differs based on its resources. It is simply not fair or comparable to pit a corporate giant against a social good entity.
This year, cause sponsorship is predicted to reach USD $2.00 billion, a projected increase of 3.7 percent over last year. Over 90 percent of consumers are willing to switch brands on assumed good will by for-profit companies, according to a recent study by the Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR. The study also said that 70 percent of consumers are confused by the content used by for-profit entities to promote their corporate social responsibility.
Many cause marketing campaigns have turned into global cautionary tales, and locally these become conversation topics about the very policies in place protecting the public. The only way forward as I was once told by a Cambodian monk who had just stolen the light out of my face, as he described how I was just cheated by another man cloaked in a similar robe as his - "always check thoroughly into what you're giving to!"