How to Engage Millennials Through Cause Marketing

Connect your company with social issues and you can connect with even the most entitled audiences

Trying to engage with millennials can feel like trying to join a high school clique. The tight-knit group of slightly cynical young adults can be difficult to understand and even more difficult to convince. An AdWeek study reveals that millennials are more skeptical than their older peers about cause-related marketing, believing it is inauthentic. Don’t let this skepticism fool you: they care deeply about social topics and are loyal to the brands that drive social change.

What’s the answer? Cause marketing. Cause marketing is a mutually beneficial collaboration between a for-profit corporation and a non-profit organization. By teaming up and communicating a mutual mission, for-profit corporations can improve their reputation and image with all stakeholders including customers, investors, and community members.

According to the same AdWeek study, millennials are more likely than other generations to seek out brands that align with causes they care about. It also shows that millennials and members of Gen Z are willing to spend time researching brands, pay more for products or sacrifice quality of products if the brand aligns with a social cause they care about. Experts at Cone Communications, the leading cause marketing communications firm in the US, found that nearly 90 percent of Americans will purchase a product because the company advocated for an issue they cared about.

Cause marketing is more than a great tool for engaging with millennials, it is an opportunity to redefine your company. Carol Cone, the “Mother of Cause Marketing,” told PRSA members that companies who bring societal issues into the core of their mission and operations are seeing an average 10 percent growth in revenue. This growth happens to the degree that the company makes social values its “true north” in operations and marketing.

For example, Unilever has become famous for its cause marketing efforts including the Dove campaign for Real Beauty

The campaign focuses on helping all women feel beautiful and celebrating their differences in body type, skin color, etc. The national attention of this campaign has pushed Unilever toward the top of LinkedIn’s list of most attractive companies for which to work.

You can leverage the millennial interest in social issues and build social value in your company by following these steps to develop your own cause marketing campaign.

  1.  Be authentic by finding a cause you care about

The first step to building a cause marketing campaign for your company is to find a cause! Consider the industry you work in, the resources your company uses and the social issues related to those operations. For example, if you work in the technology industry, consider how your company’s expertise in programming, web development or technological engineering could be used to serve your community. Your employees could help teach after school coding programs at low-income schools or set up an educational program to help students in underprivileged areas learn skills to prepare them for work at your company.

Also consider what social issues you are personally interested in and what kinds of projects you’d be thrilled to work on. Chat with other employees to learn what issues are important to them personally. Passion is important when connecting your company with a cause. Your employees’ genuine interest in the cause will shine through when it comes time to share your story.

  1. Connect with an organization doing good

When you’ve found a cause to support, look for other organizations working on that cause. Likely, these established organizations will already be working on community projects or activism projects that you can donate to or support with man power. Look for an organization that is making a significant and sustainable difference in the issue area it is dealing with. Look beyond simple opportunities for donation. You can search local non-profit directories or search through Skoll Foundation and Ashoka websites to find vetted organizations that are having real impact on social issues. If you don’t find an organization or foundation that fits with your business, consider starting your own.

  1. Craft your story

­After you’ve found and connected with the right cause and are rolling out programs to support the cause, you’re ready to start a campaign. Write your story based on why your company decided to connect with this cause specifically and what you’re doing to help. Tell the story from the perspective of an employee, a person who has been helped by your efforts or the company at large. Traditional public relations tactics come into play in this step. Tell your company’s social impact story in creative ways through different channels. Not only will your company benefit through increased online engagement and revenue, but you will also feel good about building social value in your company.

For example, tell the story of a kid at the after-school program who found a real passion for programming and how your employee became her professional mentor. Or, find an employee whose productivity dramatically improved since spending time after work mentoring kids at a local high school. Stories will practically write themselves when your company and employees start engaging in social programs.

While you may be looking primarily to increase online engagement with millennials, your efforts to build a cause marketing campaign will transform your company from the inside out. Help your company build a cause marketing project and campaign. You’ll finally learn to take mom’s advice from high school: Just be the best “you” you can be and people will love you.

Written by Lauren Thomas

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