Samuel Gregory

Founder of Jupiter and the Giraffe, a nomadic branding studio for future-thinking tech. Currently re

Welcome to the Age of Cause Branding

Why does your tech company matter?

In order to achieve success in any tech startup, you need to prove that your brand is the best on the market. You should do this in as many different ways as possible. There will be an endless stream of competition, all claiming that their product is the be-all-end-all of the tech universe. This is why it's so important for your brand to focus on what makes you a better choice.
That’s where cause branding comes into play. Cause branding is a powerful way that you can demonstrate your social, economic and ecological awareness. Showing your customers or any other interested parties that you are trying to push forward a positive, environmentally friendly or socially justifiable product.
As far as I know, Cause Branding is a term I coined. It derives from the term “cause marketing” but with one huge difference; it’s not a stunt. It’s a driving force behind your brand and a leading part of why a client might choose your product over another.

What is Cause Branding?

Cause branding is a demonstration of how a brand might recognise their social, health or environmental impacts. A brand will identify what causes they stand for, contribute to or support, before incorporating this into what makes their brand stand out.
Successful cause branding must be authentic and thoroughly represent what the company stands for: for example, a tech company might be aware that they have a detrimental impact on the environment. Maybe this is via the amount of energy they consume. This company could pledge that their brand will focus on significantly reducing the impact they have on the environment.
In order for a company to benefit from cause branding, they must make sure that the causes they stand for lie at the forefront of any business decisions. A business must make the cause an essential part of the brand’s purpose and image. They must use their startup or company to make positive changes or reinforce certain goals or ambitions.

All Talk, No Action

Brands must not just talk about their cause or how they are aware of the social impact they might have, but they must demonstrate it through their actions.
An Edelman brand study showed 6 out of 10 people think “doing good” should be part of a brand’s DNA. This means that consumers are much more likely to purchase a product or service if they know it has a positive impact in the world.

Why Should You Practice Cause Branding?

Brand consumers now hold more power than ever when it comes to your tech product. Long gone are the days where the more money you make, or the more advertisements you create, the more successful you will be.
People no longer just buy into what you do but also the how and the why. Simon Sinek speaks more about this in his riveting TED Talk.
Taking this “why” a step further and combining with the knowledge that so many consumers believe that brands should be actioning against worldwide issues along with the rise of technology and transparency is also something consumers expect. We now have enough evidence to show that tech brands who don’t stand for a cause actually suffer from lower profits or consumer interest.
“We now have enough evidence to show that tech brands who don’t stand for a cause actually suffer from lower profits or consumer interest.”
Brands with a cause outperformed the stock market by 206% over 10 years. In fact, 77% of consumers would actually pay more for products that demonstrate social responsibility. Meaningful Brands have run a report on how a socially aware company can financially benefit from marketing whichever causes they stand for, proving that customers prefer businesses or companies that make use of cause branding.

Are You a Social Enterprise?

Some brands even go as far as registering as a social enterprise in order to identify themselves and their purpose as being solely in existence to promote their cause. It isn’t uncommon for large brands to operate their own charities, either. Take, for example, McDonald’s - one of the most internationally recognised brands in the world. They use their Ronald McDonald House Charities to prove that they are socially conscious of the decisions that their brand makes.
Consumers are showing that they actively want to hear about how their favourite brands are doing social or environmental good in the world. The consumers also fundamentally believe that brands have more power than governments in solving world issues; after all, brands are more social and vocal about what they do and branding in itself recruits returning loyalty. There’s a lot of power If a brand can instantly broadcast a statement and its loyal followers respond to it. This power should be taken very seriously.

What Are The Consequences of Cause Branding?

Some analysts believe that brands risk alienating certain groups of potential customers by taking a stance on a cause, as it could demonstrate political positions or go against what a certain majority might believe.
2019 shows a perfect example of how the market is constantly changing. Brands can no longer try to appeal to everyone, as it simply isn’t possible; someone will inevitably take offence at specific decisions, especially if it does not align with their personal moral code.
Branding has moved into an era of quality over quantity, meaning that a brand must actively show a strong personality. This will allow them to develop a stronger relationship with customers, encouraging loyalty and returning custom.
Consumers may closely identify with a brand that has a shared ambition toward a cause, and in-turn will quite literally buy into their ecosystem in an attempt to further accentuate their dedication to a specific issue. It’s an easy and simple way for consumers to feel as if they play a part in something bigger, or that they are contributing towards an important issue without having to go out of their way.
This suggested “alienation” can, therefore, be considered a good thing. Once consumers are hooked on your brand’s purpose via your cause, they will be returning customers for life albeit fewer of them.

What About Internal Benefits?

Your technology company’s internal culture is absolutely crucial to its long-term success. We analyse this further in our blog post “Why Is Branding Essential For A Tech Startup in 2019” but we’ll breeze over the general idea here.
It’s not just consumers who are attracted to a cause. Potential employees are also much more likely to be reliable, loyal and hardworking if they believe that they actively contribute towards an ongoing issue.
“Employees not only want to do great work but they also want to know that the work they do is for good.”
Your brand and your “employer branding” are very closely related; employer branding should be an extension of your tech company’s values, mission and vision, so It’s no wonder that if your company represents a good cause that this will feed well into your recruitment efforts.
In this survey by LinkedIn, 75% of potential candidates will research your tech company’s reputation before applying for any given role. Unemployed or not, 69% of those won’t even apply!
According to that very same survey, you’ll receive 50% more qualified applicants if your company has an outstanding reputation. This means that you’ll have a competitive advantage if your brand remains a positive one.

Making the Wrong Brand Decision Can Impact Your Brand

Uber is one of the biggest brands to recently have been affected by poor decision-making based on political misjudgement.
The #DeleteUber campaign was born from the fact that during a taxi strike in opposition to President Donald Trump’s refugee ban, Uber continued to pick up people at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where the taxi strike was taking place.
This received a huge backlash as it demonstrated a lack of awareness and social judgment, making the company look as if it only cared about making a profit - regardless of the impact it would have.
Competitor Lyft took advantage of this situation by pledging $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union, which not only made them look like a more socially conscious entity but also allowed them to secure a large amount of returning customers who would likely remain loyal to Lyft.
This goes to show that the decisions you make as a company will have an effect on how people see your brand, in some cases resulting in not only a reduction in sales but potential fines.
As a brand, you must remain vigilant and aware of any ongoing causes or concerns that can affect the way your business operates, using them to your advantage wherever possible.

How can you use cause branding to your advantage?

Cause branding will undoubtedly have some effect on the success of your startup. You should look into ways that you can utilise cause branding to build a solid foundation for profitability whilst positively impacting the world around you.
There are a few ways that you can cement your cause

1. Be Authentic
When you make a stand, it should be one that clearly aligns with your company’s mission and vision.
You absolutely must be authentic in your goals as a company. Make a stand for the things you genuinely believe in and represent your ideals in every action you take.
Customers will be able to see through any fake attempts at cause branding, which will harm your brand. Furthermore, by only supporting causes that you believe in, you completely eliminate the risk of being ‘caught out’.
You will be much more passionate about a cause that you feel strongly for, so your brand will be in a better position to actually make the changes it wants to.

2. Be Committed
Is this something my company will care about next week? Next year? In the next decade? Is my interest sincere? If not, it’s not your issue to undertake.
Do not just hop aboard the next fashion trend, just because that’s what’s ‘in’, as it will make your brand out to be shallow and insincere. You absolutely must be committed to the cause - by making it an essential part of your brand, you are pledging long-term backing that will forever impact your image.

3. Be Relevant
Above all else, listen to your customers!
Your customers are the very foundation of your brand - without them, you will not be able to maintain a business. In order to stay successful, you need to listen to the people that continue to buy your product.
This doesn’t mean that you should change your image or cause the second someone says something negative about the company. You should work to maintain the standards that your customers expect from you.
React positively to changes within the industry. It isn’t completely unheard of for a seemingly good or just cause to be suddenly viewed in a negative light - if this does happen, then adjust your vision in line with your company values.

Pave the Way to a Brighter Future

Cause branding is, essentially, the future of commercial success - and rightly so! I like to believe that I have a positive impact on the world around me. I will always choose to support companies that have a similar vision. It makes me feel as if I’m making an indirect change for the benefit of the human race.
Future companies and brands will only find success if they successfully implement cause marketing. The world isn’t what it used to be. The majority of consumers are aware of how they can negatively impact the earth.
It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure the longevity of our planet. By working with customers and brands alike, we do have the power to make the world a better place.
Remember, cause marketing should not be a trend. It should be an integral part of who you are and what you stand for.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and make a change!
------
I've been working on this theory for a while and it wasn't until I read the book "Bigger Than This" by Fabien Geyrhalter that it all started to make sense. I strongly suggest this book if you're interested in learning more. It also contains some practical tips on how you can develop your cause branding.

Tags

More by Samuel Gregory

Topics of interest