Photo by Pearl

This April I attended the invitation-only event “New Frontier of Brands That Do – Do Good,” hosted by Ogilvy PR and Good Scout Group bringing together brand leaders to discuss corporate responsibility trends and ideas.

We have known for a while now that brands do better by doing good; that CSR (or CR) is no longer a tag-on but is now an essential part of doing business. What doesn’t get as much air time is Cause Marketing partnerships, designed to bring the skills and passions of the private and public sectors together in an incredibly powerful way.

Within the broad field of CR, Cause Marketing describes those collaborations that are a delicate, strategic art of mutual benefit: where business leaders and nonprofit leaders get together to tackle a problem together, generate loyalty together, and enhance brand image together. Nonprofits have plenty to gain from cause marketing partnerships in the form of financial resources in particular; businesses get great PR and improved customer relations. Both members of such a partnership expand their customer bases, gain new marketing opportunities, and hopefully make money. This is a form of corporate citizenship that goes well beyond simply endorsing a cause, opting to participate fully in a long-term relationship and campaigns that are thoroughly branded and mutually driven. These are partnerships like Pampers-UNICEF (1 Pack 1 Vaccine) or Coca-Cola and the Special Olympics.

“The key for brands is to have a listening culture.”- Rob Pace, HundredX

What the amazing array of speakers taught me is that cause marketing partnerships are changing the game for what we might call branded philanthropy. The old models of philanthropy, like making donations at checkout or going door-to-door, is based on charity and pressure; cause marketing is based on provision of value for consumers. In 2015, the Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report found that “66% of global consumers say they’re willing to pay more for sustainable brands—up 55% from 2014.” They also found that 73% of Millennials are willing to pay extra for ethical offerings, up from 50% the previous year.

Millennials account for an estimated $1 trillion in US consumer spending, and they’re the fastest growing segment in the marketplace. If we care, businesses have to care. We vote with our dollars, and indeed all consumers, not just Millennials, are demanding more attention to social and environmental issues from corporations. Of course, corporations aren’t necessarily experts in addressing social and environmental issues; many would argue that this isn’t their function. Enter CR partnerships, where an organization that does specialize in doing good is able to bring that value forward. Everyone wins.

“Today’s brands must have a pro-social focus.”- Jen Risi, Ogilvy Public Relations

If you’re looking to build a cause marketing partnership to this end and you’re not Coca-Cola, there’s a lot you can do to increase your chances of success. Select a partner whose brand can fit with your brand, and to do this you need to make a concerted effort to really understand their brand. Look for organizations that have credibility, and look with an eye to brand alignment: do you fit together in a natural way? Seek an alliance where the proposed partner has something real to gain from it, and be ready to quantify that gain. After all, increasing corporate shareholder value and raising funds—depending on which camp you’re in, corporate or nonprofit—are the name of the game. Also, you should look around locally, because you may find someone with whom you already share something big in common: a geographic culture and audience. And don’t forget that there is a lot of value in partnership with small local branches of larger organizations; you never know what the future could hold in terms of building a relationship with the larger parent organization.

You also should be ready to make a case for yourself as a partner based on how you’re going to measure and demonstrate value once the project is happening. Have a clear structure of measurement through dollars, conversion, employee engagement, number of donations made, and other indicators that make sense. (Employee satisfaction and commitment is a big one, by the way. It matters.) Have a schedule of when these will be measured and what will constitute success, and why. Then think through how you can demonstrate impact in other ways, through brand stories that can be used in PR forthcoming, through employee behaviors over time, through future projects that build on this one. Think long term. Think about the community, because cause-based projects are absolutely driven by the community you help create and grow.

“When it comes to corporate social responsibility, if you aren’t uncomfortable when you’re doing, you’re not doing it right.”- Tommy Stadlen

To build that community, you have to be ready to define your contribution, says Tommy Stadlen, co-author of the bestselling book Connect. Define your purpose with clarity. Explain why your project or partnership or campaign deserves to exist. Ask yourself every day, “Why does the world actually need us?” And then live up to that. Embed the purpose and vision into every aspect of what you’re doing together. And the projects you build together will do good.

Ogilvy Public Relations is a global communications leader operating across six continents. Ogilvy PR was also named Best Digital Consultancy in the World, one of the Most Creative Agencies, Asia Pacific Consultancy of the Year, and Best South-East Agency by the Holmes Report. Ogilvy PR is a unit of Ogilvy & Mather, a WPP company. | @ogilvypr.

Good Scout is a social good consultancy that helps brands take smart, impactful and sustainable leaps in how they do greater good. Good Scout works inside and in-depth with corporations, nonprofits, and individual philanthropistS. | @GoodScoutGroup.

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