Building Shock and Awe Cause Marketing Campaigns That Meet a Need–With Bruce Burtch

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Increased sales, better brand recognition and public perception, engaged employees and a cause you care about are some of the reasons why you might choose to run a cause marketing campaign.  But how do create one that provides these benefits and keeps you from making the mistakes that could paint you a cause-washer?  Cause marketing expert Bruce Burtch jokes that it doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to create an effective cause marketing campaign–but it does does more than just good intention.  In our interview, Bruce talks about the details that turn your initial intention into the rewards of a well-run campaign.

So maybe you don’t need to have an advanced degree to create a well run campaign, but you do need to be smart about it. Here’s the S.M.A.R.T.E.R. approach that Bruce uses.

  • Strategy.  What could make your company glow a little more?  What are you trying to accomplish?  The emergency preparedness campaign that Bruce developed with the American Red Cross Bay Area chapter and PG&E called Prepare Bay Area first needed to get people’s attention so the strategic question was “What do we have to do to get your attention?” Campaign tactics flowed from this and ideas or offers that came along were measured against this strategy. If they didn’t enhance it, they were discarded or shelved for later.
  • Marketing Plan.  Your marketing should align with your strategy and utilize different media to reach and motivate your target audience.  An integrated strategy goes beyond print and social media to consider in-your-face guerilla marketing, events and in-person spokespeople.  Prepare Bay Area used large-scale decals, billboards, volunteers, video, print and live-sized dioramas of steel girders to capture peoples’ attention. Think about what the media will respond to in addition to what will capture the public’s attention.
  • Alignment.  Make sure your mission and marketing objectives are aligned with those of  your partner.  Does the partnership bring you something your company didn’t have on its own? Does it make sense to the public?
  • Relationships.  Take care of the partnership and work to build trust with your partner.  Support your partner’s marketing objectives in addition to your own.  Trust is critical when the campaign hits a bump in the road (which is inevitable). Often the best cause marketing campaigns don’t reach full potential until their second or third year, so creating an open relationship is key to maximizing impact and benefits.
  • Transparency.  There’s internal and external aspects of transparency.  Internally, you need to be completely open about your expectations with your nonprofit partner.  If your goal is to sell more products (likely, given that you’re running a marketing campaign), be clear about this.  Don’t suppress any concerns you have and don’t cook up side deals.  Externally, you should communicate who is behind the campaign and why; the donation amount per item or customer action; who’s receiving the donation, when and how; and the total amount that you’re committed to pledging (if applicable).
  • Evaluate.  While the campaign is in motion, stop and evaluate how it’s going.  Compare the public’s current perception of your organization or cause with pre-campaign perception. You can run quick and inexpensive surveys to gauge public opinion through SurveyMonkey or SurveyPirate.
  • Revise and Repeat.  Celebrate what works, tweak what doesn’t. Learn from both.

Choosing your nonprofit partner (Those of you who regularly listen to my interviews know that I ask this question a lot. Mostly, I want to help you select the best partners to optimize your programs, but I also think an interviewee’s response to this question shows what he values and how his mind works.)

  1. Does the nonprofit fit with your brand image? When Bruce worked with Marriott, he developed a campaign with the March of Dimes, a nonprofit that was family oriented and widely known, which fit with Marriott’s contemporary goal to be viewed as family-friendly.
  2. Identify your internal market objectives and then figure out what resources you can bring to the campaign and how you can support your partner.
  3. As much as possible, focus on organizations that are similar in size to your company and are in your community.  A geographic commonality is becoming less important as we move more (or all) of our work online.
  4. Do your homework. Once you have a short-list of a couple organizations, look at their annual reports, talk to people to gauge the organizations’ efficiency and reputation.
  5. Ask yourself again if your business and the nonprofit’s missions are aligned and make sense to the public.

About Bruce Burtch
As a cause marketing catalyst, Bruce works with companies and nonprofit organizations to develop partnerships that maximize their strategic marketing, sales and fund development.  He’s known for creating engaging campaigns (think fake boulders atop San Francisco taxi cabs) that motivate people to act.  Bruce has worked with AT&T, Marriott Corporation, American Red Cross, the U.S. Olympic Committee, Xerox and the Special Olympics, among others.  Learn more about Bruce here and give his blog a read.

Thank you to Lee Fox, @KooDooZ, for introducing me to Bruce.

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Leave a comment
  1. Bryan V April 14, 2010 at 8:43 pm #

    Great post. Very informative and helpful in terms of identifying best practices for forging relationships with non-profits. It would be interesting to explore how smaller organizations can effectively engage with larger non-profits in a way that is credible and mutually beneficial. In any event, thanks for your insights!

  2. admin April 15, 2010 at 1:25 pm #

    Bryan, I’m glad you found it useful. If I understand your question, you’re looking for more information/techniques for how smaller companies can partner with larger nonprofits? Aside from better name recognition/reputation, is there another benefit you see to it? I’d argue that the more localized nonprofits would have more resources to bring to the partnership and a stronger incentive to make it succeed.

    Thanks again for your comment and I’m happy to continue the discussion.

  3. Bryan V April 15, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    Thanks Olivia. I agree with your point about focusing on the more localized nonprofits. I was just curious if there are other best practices that smaller, start-up companies can use to try and stand-out when approaching nonprofit organizations. Given these organizations have limited bandwidth/resources, are there particular things that we as a start-up should consider focusing on (in the absence of having a huge number of current users) that nonprofits might find unique/valuable?


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