Thursday, February 17, 2011

Text Messaging and Marketing for a Cause

Author: Marti Barletta

Like most marketers, I am scrabbling up a steep learning curve regarding the possibilities of text messaging marketing. So I'm always happy when I find an article that schools me on a good way to use this new communication channel in a way that enhances a brand's appeal to women. To build on the TextBoard author's thinking, I thought I'd add a few comments clarifying how a company can be most effective engaging women via a program using this innovative new channel.
First, keep in mind that cause marketing is especially likely to resonate with women, who are more responsive than men to a company's efforts in this area. In fact, Cone Marketing, the leading researcher and agency expert on Cause Marketing, says:
"By all measures, moms lead the way as the demographic most amenable to cause marketing. In fact, moms virtually demand the opportunity to shop with a cause in mind. A staggering 95 percent find cause marketing acceptable (vs. 88% average), and 92 percent want to buy a product supporting a cause (vs. 81% average). They are also more likely to switch brands (93% vs. 80% average), so it is hardly surprising that moms purchased more cause-related products in the past year than any other demographic (61% vs. 41% average)."

By the way, 80% of women are moms, so you can pretty much read "moms" as "women.'" And comparing them to "average," which includes both men and women, substantially understates the variance from men. The point difference would be roughly twice as high if they did it properly. See more specific study data on trends, industries, shopping attitudes and cause marketing program structure here.
The TextBoard article, which is gracious enough to mention my gendertrends principle "corporate halo," outlines three approaches companies can take to implement a text-for-charity program:
  1. The company chooses a charity that all customers can contribute to.
  2. The company rotates among a different charity every month, which might be more likely to maximize participation, since different customers can spark to different causes.
  3. The company offers a choice of charities, which the customer can pick among.
Text-for-charity contributions are a great way to polish up a corporate halo, although because it's new, text messaging is just starting to get traction with consumers, relative to other channels. And from a marketing point of view, their three alternatives make a lot of sense; at first glance, it might seem hard to choose among them.

Interestingly, though, recent research shows that consumers have a strong preference for supporting companies that commit to a charity on their own, rather than doing "charity of the month" or "multiple charities." Cone Marketing reports:
"At a time when consumer voting campaigns have emerged as the cause marketing tactic du jour, a majority (61%) of consumers say they would prefer to see a company make a long-term commitment to a focused issue rather than determining themselves which issue the company supports in the short-term."

In my opinion, the company that picks a cause conveys that this is something they actually care about, which is what serves to humanize and personalize the company. Allowing consumers to pick the charity, or even having a revolving list of charities, comes across as a marketing incentive. It says, "The company doesn't care what you pick - you can give money to whomever you want."

In choosing a charity to support, I do think it's ideal for the company to find one that has some clear linkage either to what the company does (the article gives an example of a realtor that supports Habitat for Humanity) or some personal connection to the company's leader. If the company seeking to shine its corporate halo finds itself with no obvious choice, my advice would be to do a little research. Cone provides information on what percentages of people support various types of charities (health research, environmental, educational, etc.). And there's no reason a company couldn't ask a sample of their customers to vote on a select few options as input to the company's decision on which to support.

Two elements about a texting campaign that people should keep in mind are that 1) to activate it, the program needs to be communicated through more conventional channels; and 2) to have credibility, the company itself needs to make a commitment to the charity, not just facilitate a way for consumers to make donations. Print, TV and website communications need to introduce the effort, explain why the company has chosen that charity, explain what the company itself is committing in support of that charity and assure consumers that the company has vetted the charity to confirm the money will have major impact in helping people.
I'd also like to add one additional way for a company to get a lot of appreciation for which I think text contributions are extraordinarily well-suited - better than any other medium. This is the contribution to help victims of a natural disaster, like the Haiti earthquake or the floods in Pakistan. Because many people are already looking for a way to help (i.e., built-in "speaks to everyone"), the fact that a company can facilitate their contributions through a channel with immediacy, like texting, is important and appreciated. The way a company can add to that is to get out the message that they, too, will be contributing in some way. During the winter of 2009, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese ran an online program in which they donated a box of "The Cheesiest" to hunger relief organization Feeding America for every click on the webpage or tweet with a hashtag – a program that could easily have been implemented via text messaging. – and today, probably would be.

I'm appreciative for TextBoard's article, which started me thinking on the subject of text messaging and cause marketing. It's certainly a niche with great potential and avoids the distasteful feel of advertising through text messages.
You've read several suggestions in TextBoard's and my articles, but cause marketing is really centered on what your company is passionate about. So get creative! And put some heart into it!

Marti Barletta
The World's Foremost Speaker on Marketing to Women
CEO, The TrendSight Group,
Trends and InSights on Your Best Customers: Women
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About the Author

Marti Barletta is the world's foremost speaker on marketing to women. She is the author of the groundbreaking book, Marketing to Women, now available in 17 languages, and co-author with Tom Peters of Trends. Her newest book, PrimeTime Women, shows how marketers can tap the unprecedented buying power of women in their prime to drive sales and share. A Wharton MBA, Barletta founded The TrendSight Group to help companies get smart about women. Her consulting clients have included Allstate, Deloitte Consulting, Ford, Frito-Lay, GE Appliances, Logitech, Volvo and Wachovia. As the recognized international authority on women, Barletta has been quoted on CBS, ABC and NPR, as well as in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fast Company among others worldwide. Her dynamic style, command of her subject and lively sense of humor have made her a popular speaker at hundreds of corporations and conferences.


Text to Charity said...

Well very informative article about this advance way of making charity donation across the world for most deserving people who are suffering from any natural calamity. I am totally agree about this point that those who are running a campaign should also donate some handsome amount so that the people can get inspiration and In Canada anyone willing to donate can visit @ Text to Charity and get a personal campaign to launch a charity venture in Canada as across the North America

Lalia Helmer said...

Thank you for writing in and passing on the information about Text to Charity. It is my purpose here to help promote organizations like yours that can help good causes around the world.