Cause Marketing during COVID-19

While nearly 3 million people have tested positive for COVID-19, many more have been affected by the near-total economic shutdown. Companies are scrambling to adapt as consumers tighten spending, but agile companies are using cause marketing to emerge into a “new normal” with exponentially greater brand recognition and brand loyalty than before. While it might be a time of lean revenues, connecting with customers through a shared, common cause will pay dividends in the future and build a positive long-term reputation.

Like any disruption, COVID-19 presents an opportunity to react quickly and gain positioning with target audiences.  Large corporations like Anheuser-Busch and Ford recognize this cause marketing partnership, and are mobilizing their distribution and manufacturing assets for the common good. Audiences are generally more optimistic about private responses to the crisis than they are government responses, and companies are responding appropriately to satisfy a different type of consumer demand: the demand for good news.

Consumers are faced with an abundance of news about companies struggling and failing. As brands struggle to tell their stories in a time of crisis, the story needs to become a redeeming one of taking a stand for a greater purpose.

A Mintel study shows that in non-crisis times, nearly 73% of Americans say a company’s charitable giving affects their purchase decisions, while 84% of consumers place importance on a company’s support for a charitable cause. Customers with emotional relationships with a brand have more than 300% the lifetime value as those who don’t, and will be 26% more likely to recommend that brand to others. While this might not be an easy time to make profits, the opportunity is there for brands to create important emotional connections with clients through cause marketing.

The COVID-19 crisis promises to sear itself into the popular memory as a generation-defining event, and those memories are increasingly being made on social media. When consumers remember the lockdown in the future, will they remember your brand going through the crisis with them? Will tomorrow’s consumers remember your brand doing good in a dark time?