Cause (and Effect) Based Marketing

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Cause (and Effect) Based Marketing

At The Pod, we’re all about “the good.” Whether it’s Jedi vs. Sith, Middle Earth vs. Sauron, or Credit Unions vs. Banks, we’re always cheering (and designing marketing campaigns) for the good guys. It’s even our motto: “Doing good work for good people doing good work in the world.” Although we’ve yet to create branded content for the Rebel Alliance, we’re holding out for the first CU of the New Republic. In the meantime, we work for the good guys on our planet: credit unions, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations. We love our credit unions because they’re bastions of financial freedom, and their very existence is a positive influence in our world. But what we really, really love is when credit unions team up with nonprofits and charities, because then everybody benefits. Let’s look at some statistics.



Credit Unions are of the people, and it’s pretty clear what the people want: for the brands they interact with on a daily basis to support social causes, so that in turn, the consumer is supporting social causes through these interactions. Initiatives like “charity checkouts” where it’s simple and convenient for customers to donate leaves them feeling good about themselves, and they’ll associate these positive feelings with your brand. So, how do you choose a cause to support, and more importantly, how do you convey that support to your members?

The first part should be easy; you support a cause in line with your brand identity, something near and dear to your company and your community. If you don’t believe it’s a worthy cause, how will anyone else? For example, a CU located near the ocean could support coastal cleanup organizations, or a CU located on a college campus could support educational initiatives. The last thing you want to do is piggyback on whatever cause seems socially relevant at the time, because when the spotlight passes you might find yourself accused of hoping on the bandwagon, no matter how genuine your intentions may be.

Generating member support is a whole different story. Most people (as evidenced by the statistics above) subscribe to some level of altruism and are ready to give. Unfortunately, there’s a large gap in between simple donation initiatives and getting your members to view you as a benevolent, socially-minded advocate for good. That comes in two parts: content and consistency. Approach your caused-based marketing with the same level of consistency and integration that you approach your overall brand identity. Hold the same annual charity events, run fundraising drives at the same time each year, and gradually build a name for yourself as the local gladiator for the cause of your choice.

Content is the trickier side of the coin. Events and branch initiatives simply aren’t enough. You need to put it out there, because otherwise the consistency you’re putting so much work into will turn into a game of presumption, your generosity will be taken for granted, and they’ll turn on you if you ever fall short of their expectations. However, it’s always a bad idea to pull out the soapbox and shout “look at all the great things we’re doing,” because humility is key to building trust, and trust is the foundation of all relationships, especially those with financial institutions. Instead, your content should be an emotionally compelling illustration of some aspect of your cause.

  1. This Coca-Cola-produced short film is a perfect example. At the end of the day, Coca-Cola is a product that must be sold. The director of the short film even had this to say in his interview with Adweek: “Yes, their intent was to win a market, and their intent was to sell their product. My intent was to send the message that diversity is a good thing... I'm not going to skip an opportunity to send a pro-equality message just because they're selling a product alongside it.” Watching the short film about the relationship of two teenage boys, the intentions of Coke are the last thing on your mind, because the content is so absorbing. At the very end, you’re left smiling, and when the Coca-Cola logo finally flashes across the screen, there’s no denying that Coke made you smile. They minimize hypocritical backlash by creating a campaign that has nothing (and everything) to do with selling Coca-Cola. This also furthers the impact of their message, because it doesn’t feel like a sales pitch. If they came right out of the gate saying “We’re Coca-Cola, and we care about social equality,” the overwhelming response would be “You do?”. Credit Unions have the advantage here, because they’re not-for-profit to begin with, and their everyday products and services help people- but this isn’t the time to be selling them. When the man behind the curtain is exposed, your audience won’t be disappointed.
  2. This Thai Life Insurance spot is a perfect example. Although the “cause” is more of a general appeal to be a good person, the execution is still ideal. While the brand identity is conveyed through the content/message of the ad, the actual name of the company doesn’t appear until the last few seconds. The resulting effect? By the time the video has drawn you in, and the emotional impact has landed, the last thing you associate those feelings with is Thai Life Insurance. Cause-based ads often follow a bland general format “Our company noticed a problem. Our company did something about it. Here’s a video of what we did.” Although these companies are admirable, they diminish both the integrity and impact of the spot by sticking to an expository format and featuring themselves so prominently. Tooting your own horn can often result in hitting the wrong key.


One way to ensure your content comes off as relatable instead of preachy: have your members create it themselves! Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? That movement shed light and raised funds to fight a horribly debilitating disease, but in a fun, light-hearted manner that everyone wanted to participate in and share: social media sharing is fueled by positivity and self identity. A similar, scaled down campaign would put your members at the forefront, which is perfectly in line with Credit Union principles.

There are dozens of methods to communicate your story of support. The Pod Advertising is here so you can do the support, and we can do the communicating. We offer blooming creative solutions to all marketing challenges, so you can spend more time doing good, and we can spend time telling people about it.