the gift of cause marketing through email

Use Your Email Marketing for Good this Holiday Season

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The global COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to hunker down and go into survival mode as they attempt to reduce costs and protect revenues. However, this doesn’t mean that corporate goodwill should go out of the window this holiday season. In these unusual times, because we are all in this together, “cause marketing” is more important than ever.

Cause marketing (sometimes referred to as cause-related marketing) is a marketing strategy adopted by for-profit businesses in the hope of driving greater customer engagement while also benefiting wider society. Cause marketing campaigns may incorporate messaging supporting the work of charities and not-for-profit organizations or specific activist-led campaigns.

Email is a powerful marketing channel that can connect groups of like-minded people to take action. So, how can marketers use email for good and support worthy causes during turbulent times?

Email marketing in times of crisis

2020 and the global COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. The virus wasn’t something we could nimbly pivot and turn to our advantage. It fundamentally changed the way we conduct almost every aspect of our businesses, from the way we employ people to the way we engage with our customers and everything in-between. Let’s be honest; 2020 hasn’t been an easy year for anyone.

During these difficult times, email marketing moved to the forefront of many marketing organizations’ strategies as a matter of necessity. Data from Hubspot suggested that email marketing sends increased by 44% on pre-lockdown levels.

A little corporate goodwill in your email marketing this time of the year can go a long way towards demonstrating to your subscribers that a lot more thought goes into your campaigns than just taking the opportunity to hit an address in a list.

Helping those who help others

The pandemic hit the charity and not-for-profit sector especially hard. Many organizations are struggling to balance increasing demand for their services with declining financial support. 

The National Council of Nonprofits recently highlighted the fact that many small, local charities are at risk of going under during the pandemic due to the widespread cancelation of fundraising events, the forced closure of stores, and the sudden withdrawal of government funding.

With more than 30% of charitable giving taking place in December, the not-for-profit sector will be anxiously looking towards the holidays, hoping that there will be some positive news for them at the end of a bad year.   

Email marketing for good: Every little send helps

While many industries have struggled during the pandemic, others are doing well. No matter what your company’s situation may be, there are creative ways to support those in need this holiday season. Like many good ideas in business, this can often start with a simple email marketing campaign. Even the simplest of campaign edits can make a real difference. Consider how the inclusion of a simple logo, a short line of text, and a link incorporated into your regular email marketing sends could help a charity or not-for-profit organization raise their profile amongst your subscriber base. 

The oxygen of publicity afforded to any cause via a targeted email send to a loyal list of subscribers can be invaluable. Supporting a good cause doesn’t mean that you need to hit your subscribers with a hard-hitting CTA on their behalf. Even the briefest mention of a charity, not-for-profit organization, or worthy cause, can help raise awareness, recruit volunteers and ambassadors, and directly and indirectly raise much-needed funds. While a little goes a long way, imagine what you could do if you are in a position to go big.

How big brands are giving back

It’s not unusual for big brands to give a little back at this time of the year in support of their communities. However, in these unprecedented times, many have risen to the challenge and thrown their considerable weight behind the problem over a sustained period.

Netflix SAG-AFTRA Covid graphic
A call to support entertainment workers during the pandemic

While Netflix has performed well during lockdown, the online streaming service has not ignored the plight of many others who work in the creative industries. The television and film production industry has been particularly badly hit, with many productions grinding to a halt, leaving cast and crew without work. These aren’t all highly paid actors and producers with money in the bank to help them through lean times. The industry employs hundreds of thousands of electricians, carpenters, drivers, hair and makeup artists, and many more, who are often paid hourly wages and work on a project-to-project basis.

Netflix has set up a $100 million fund to help those facing hardship during the COVID crisis. Understanding that the company might not be best-placed to reach everyone in need, $15 million of those funds will be directed towards third-party organizations providing emergency relief to out-of-work crew and cast members.

Highlighting the fact that Netflix is in a privileged position while many others in the industry are struggling, Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s Chief Content Officer, said, “What’s happening is unprecedented. We are only as strong as the people we work with and Netflix is fortunate to be able to help those hardest hit in our industry through this challenging time.”

Putting food on the table

The need for the Netflix fund demonstrates how COVID-19 has impacted on communities that wouldn’t normally require assistance from charities and not-for-profit organizations. This pandemic has left many highly skilled and professional people worrying about how they are going to pay their bills and put food on the table.

Kraft-Heinz logo

As one of the world’s largest food companies, The Kraft Heinz Company knows a thing or two about putting food on the table. The company has committed $12-million to ensure people don’t go hungry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of a global effort, Kraft Heinz is donating food and cash to food banks, school breakfast clubs, hospitals, and hunger relief programs.

Kraft Heinz is also highlighting the role of its employees in this relief program.

Miguel Patricio, Kraft Heinz CEO, said, “This donation is an immediate and impactful way we can help our neighbors in need around the world and help fill this critical gap. We are very pleased to make these donations on behalf of our worldwide employees, who are working especially hard during this time to provide consumers and their families with products they know and trust. We are all in this together and are reminded that we’re only as strong as our most vulnerable.”

Do you believe?

While COVID-19 dominates the headlines, it’s all too easy to forget about other issues that haven’t gone away in light of the pandemic.

Macy's Make-a-Wish holiday campaign graphic
Macy’s holiday campaign for Make-a-Wish Foundation

Macy’s is committed to making the dreams of critically ill children come true this holiday season by supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The real beauty behind this campaign is that it requires very little effort other than a child’s belief in Santa. The department store has pledged to donate $1 (up to $1 million) for every letter to Santa it receives in-store or via its website.

A statement on the store’s website says, “Now more than ever, as COVID-19 impacts our communities, hope is essential for waiting wish kids who are isolated and vulnerable. With Macy’s support, Make-A-Wish is committed to ensuring that no child waits even one unnecessary day to experience how a wish can encourage the belief in the impossible.”

Rebel marketers with a cause

In recent years, many large brands have thrown considerable marketing muscle behind specific causes. Often influenced by significant news events, cause marketing campaigns are the perfect companion to the current Zeitgeist. In a news agenda otherwise dominated by the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement has quite rightly attracted a lot of attention in 2020.  

Nike and Adidas are just two of the more high profile brands to support the Black Lives Matter movement. In a moment of unprecedented harmony between rival brands supporting the cause, Nike inverted their brand tag line to read, “Don’t do it,” urging their customers not to sit back and be silent about racism. Nike’s campaign was shared by Adidas, who joined the conversation with the words, “Together is how we move forward. Together is how we make change.”

The Black Lives Matter movement wasn’t just a useful hashtag for brands like Nike and Adidas to pin their brand values. Both brands believed in the movement as a catalyst for change. While some might argue that it is not our corporations’ job to get involved with such issues, a growing number of people believe it should be a priority. Research by PR firm Porter Novelli suggests that 85% of Americans expect companies to help address racial inequality in 2020 (up from 81% in 2018).

Authenticity is, of course, vital in cause marketing, and as such, should never be deployed as a cynical move to highjack an issue and profit from it.

If you can help, you should help

When you support a charity or a not-for-profit organization, or any other good cause, you are announcing to the world that you want to make the world a better place. Moreover, suppose you support an organization that makes a real difference in your community. In that case, you are making your community a better place for your employees, your business partners, your customers, and your potential customers. You don’t support a charity or a not-for-profit organization to directly profit from the relationship, but this commitment to your community rarely goes unnoticed. The importance of supporting a good cause is highlighted by Porter Novelli which suggests that 72% of Americans believe it is more important than ever that the companies they buy from reflect their values.

While the holidays will focus many marketers’ minds on giving, some businesses support causes that are more deep-rooted in society and go beyond the remit of seasonal goodwill. However, sometimes these causes will resonate so perfectly with a brand’s values that they deserve to be positioned front and center of their entire strategy.

3 reasons to get behind a cause marketing

1. People buy from people they like, trust and identify with

When your business demonstrates that it shares the same values as its customers, it suddenly becomes more likable. Essentially, you present a more human face to your public and no longer hide behind a cold corporate façade. The desire to humanize brands is why corporations invest millions in seeking celebrities and other influencers’ endorsement. In many ways, cause marketing has the same impact. Some people will love your approach; others will hate it. It’s all about finding the right balance and ensuring your vision is compelling and authentic.

2. It invests in the communities in which we all live and work

When you support a specific community, you enrich that community. In your own small way, you are making the world a better, more harmonious place. While these improvements may be marginal, the more businesses that develop this community spirit, the stronger our communities become. Strong, stable communities are nicer places to live and create more favorable conditions to do business.

3. It lifts morale, helping to attract and retain employees

Everybody wants to work in a place where they feel valued.  When you support the issues that are important to the people within your organization, you demonstrate that you value them beyond their employment contract. Cause marketing could be a valuable component of your business’s HR strategy.

Will cause marketing be a part of your 2020 holiday email strategy? While nobody can deny 2020 has been a challenging year, there are still many reasons to be optimistic. Communities have come together like never before to help each other through the pandemic and highlight the injustices many continue to face. Cause marketing is very much on-trend this holiday season and will continue to find a place in more organization’s marketing campaigns as we re-emerge into the new normal.

Remember, if you want to do more with your email marketing, the team at Email on Acid will always have your back, making sure every email is delivered with perfection.

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Author: John W. Hayes

John W. Hayes is a marketing strategist and author who has been helping businesses develop their online marketing strategies for more than 20-years. Working alongside some of the biggest names in eCommerce and online marketing he has dedicated much of his career to demystifying the web and highlighting opportunities for businesses to grow. He is the author of five books and is widely recognized as an influential thought leader in the content, email, and social media marketing arena.

Author: John W. Hayes

John W. Hayes is a marketing strategist and author who has been helping businesses develop their online marketing strategies for more than 20-years. Working alongside some of the biggest names in eCommerce and online marketing he has dedicated much of his career to demystifying the web and highlighting opportunities for businesses to grow. He is the author of five books and is widely recognized as an influential thought leader in the content, email, and social media marketing arena.

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