I have spent the bulk of my career working with companies and nonprofit organizations (large and small) to create initiatives and corresponding marketing campaigns aimed at making a positive impact in people’s lives. Let me start by saying all of the partners I have had the pleasure of working with are trying to do a good thing…trying to do “the right” thing. Unfortunately, over the past few years I have noticed an alarming trend that, if left unaddressed, could continue the pervasive thinning of resources that has become commonplace in the cause marketing world.
“We want to own something.”
This has become the mantra of cause marketers. By “owning something,” cause marketing professionals seem to believe they are doing something innovative – something that will make them stand out amongst their peers and competitors. I’ve heard them say their campaigns need to be unique and unlike anything their consumers have ever seen. However, this position seems to be clouding the judgment of industry leaders that have an opportunity to make influential, meaningful decisions for their organizations. You see, by focusing on this desire to “own something” or craft something “unique and original,” cause marketers are ineffectively dispersing funds, time and resources dedicated to addressing a social need.
My plea to companies, nonprofit organizations, government entities, foundations and all those trying to positively impact communities worldwide is to stop trying to own a specific initiative or campaign. Instead, own transformation. Here is something that can set your organization apart: track the impact you are making. Track the ways you are changing people’s lives.
I implore you to work with organizations that are already deeply rooted in addressing a specific cause or social issue. I ask you to work with entities that have a track record of driving successful change. Focus your collective resources instead of trying to do something “new and unique” that ultimately spreads your finite resources too thin. Companies and causes working in the same social space should stop trying to compete with one another. Rather, work with one another to better direct fundraising and volunteer efforts. Your differentiator doesn’t have to be the unique nature of the campaign you create. Your differentiator should be the unique way you are making meaningful, measured impact. Your differentiator should be a dedication to making sure the resources invested to address your target issue or cause are maximized.
In “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost famously prosed,
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
For cause marketers, the road “less traveled by” is the road toward innovative partnerships with like-minded organizations. Your combined efforts will make a greater impact than ever could have been realized if both entities attempted to “own something.” Own transformation. That will make all the difference.