How to Make a Difference with Cause Marketing Events

Vodka and dogs: these are two topics near to Tito Beveridge’s heart. Tito is the founder of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, which, last year, ranked number one in sales among all liquor brands. But, Tito hasn’t forgotten his roots. Just 20 years ago, he peddled “his first thousand cases” using a marketing sheet that featured photos of him, his still and his rescue dog – a yellow lab named Dogjo. It was Dogjo who stayed by Tito’s side day-in and day-out while he worked to craft the now-beloved spirit. And, to pay homage to her, Tito uses his brand to help owners care for their trusty canine companions, as well as to promote pet adoption. This is through its “Vodka for Dog People” program.

The basis of “Vodka for Dog People” includes standard methods to benefit its furry friends. Branded apparel sales and donations to related non-profits at Christmas and year-round are included to support the campaign. Yet, the program also includes innovative and fun components including hosting “yappy hours” and “puppy pawties.” The brand holds dog costume contests held at Halloween in various establishments nationwide. Yet, it also organizes regular gatherings for like-minded people – those who love vodka and dogs.

This is a time when those brands that stand in support of a cause are seen as more relevant among consumers. And, it’s cause marketing events like Tito’s that help them stand out among the pack.

Why Cause Marketing Events Propel Brands to the Front of the Pack

A 2017 Forbes article tells us that, “Consumers, particularly millennials, are increasingly looking to businesses as a force for positive social impact.” It says it’s “when brands engage in social issues, they are more likely to earn their trust and loyalty.” This adds another layer to consumer brands’ efforts, which are already challenged by millennials’ spending preferences. They’d rather buy an experience over goods. And, their stance isn’t expected to change in 2018. Women’s Wear Daily explains, “Overall, 2018 will see consumers continuing to question their values, priorities and purchasing decisions; deepening their engagement in the brands and issues that matter to them.” Forward-thinking brands like Tito’s are already taking the necessary steps to keep consumers committed.

It’s reported that “much of Tito’s success lies with a strong millennial following.” Yet, the brand’s not only combining their love of vodka and dogs. It’s combining millennials’ desires for activism and experiences. Besides its intimate “yappy hours,” Tito’s sponsors festivals. And, it has even executed a mobile marketing tour along Route 66 to advance its brand, while raising money for its cause. Tito’s proves cause marketing can make a difference in many ways.

Further, a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article discloses five common elements of the best cause marketing campaigns. Interestingly enough, their components also make the best event and experiential marketing activations. In fact, when you consider two in particular – “a physical element” and “a request for a small personal action” from consumers, the most efficient means to succeed becomes obvious: cause marketing events.

3 Tips to Host the Most Effective Cause Marketing Campaigns

Brands and agencies looking to include cause marketing should consider the following:

1. Tell a concise brand-cause story.

Outdoor clothing company, Patagonia, is known for its cause marketing. In fact, it has dubbed itself “The Activist Company,” dedicated to protecting and preserving the environment. To do so, like Tito’s, it manages its own cause – “Worn Wear,” which helps consumers keep their gear and apparel in use longer. This may be out of the ordinary for a company that needs to sell more products to stay in business. Yet, the cause fits its commitment to sustainability. And, Fast Company says Patagonia actually “grows every time it amplifies its social mission.” This is in part due to its cause marketing events and their creative ability to share a clear message.

Patagonia executed a six-week mobile marketing tour across the U.S. to promote its brand and its cause. And, let’s not forget about its message – “If it’s broke, fix it.” This is a “simple and inspiring message,” which HBR deems one of the five common elements. To tell its story and give consumers a personal action, brand ambassadors and repair techs made 18 stops to help repair worn apparel. One initiative was the free, DIY workshops that taught people how to make their own repairs. The event staff even made repairs themselves to old Patagonia gear consumers brought with them. Yet, no matter which, these events allowed consumers to take pride in their ability to make a difference. And, Patagonia was able to strengthen its community and achieve increased brand loyalty.

2. Make wise investments to best support the cause.

Brands may be tempted to cut corners on cause marketing events or campaigns. This may be in assumption the effort will take away from – not add to – the bottom line. But, Patagonia shows us different.

They demonstrate the impact cause marketing can have when brands step out from behind their computers to get face-to-face with consumers. Not only are they able to tell their story, they’re able to show authenticity. They’re able to have two-way conversations that deepen consumer engagement and can sway purchasing decisions. But, the brand must put the right people on the front lines.

For Patagonia, those people were brand ambassadors – people passionate about the brand and its cause and capable of engaging consumers. And, they were product specialists – people knowledgeable about the product and with certain skills to execute crucial event functions. And, it’s true; the type of event staff will vary activation-to-activation. Yet, their roles should never be underplayed. These people are the brand in consumers’ minds.

3. Help consumers share the cause via their personal social media accounts.

The #MeToo initiative showed the power of social media to join and support a cause. Instagram photos alone with the hashtag are approaching one million. And, Women’s Wear Daily says, in 2018, this inclination to share will only get bigger. “Hashtag activism is expected to gain momentum globally for an assortment of causes.” This makes it not surprising to find #VodkaForDogPeople and #WornWear in heavy use on Instagram, too. Neither is it stunning to learn another common element of the most effective campaigns is a “strong emphasis on social sharing.”

report by the Event Marketing Institute reveals that 98% of consumers create digital or social content at events and experiences. And, 100% of these consumers will share it via their social media platforms. Knowing the potential reach efforts could have, brands must be mindful to not only create a hashtag for their causes. Their planning and their event staff must create opportunities at purpose-driven marketing events that foster consumers’ abilities to digitally capture the experience. In the end, the sharing of these moments maximize return and provide the boost brands need to move to the front of the pack.

Cause marketing events are a great way to connect with consumers and build brand love. Tying a lead generation into the campaign is a great way to capitalize on the event and increase ROI. Download the free guide below to learn how.

Author: Kelly Springs-Kelley

Kelly Springs-Kelley is the Marketing Director at Elevate Staffing. When she's not creating content or pondering the future of in-person consumer engagement, Kelly can be found hiking the mountains of Arizona with her 2 kids and 3 dogs.

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