Paul Holmes 28 May 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
How does the leading cause marketing agency stay on top? Raise the bar for success, of course.
In 2000, Cone was challenged to maintain its leadership position in the field of cause marketing, a status it had carved out for itself the previous year with its launch of Cause Branding. This time, however, Cone did not have a new concept to introduce, and it faced a growing number of competitors who hoped to profit from this discipline. Cone addressed these challenges with a strategic and well-executed approach, including the commission of timely and relevant research, an international speaking tour and trade and consumer media outreach. By year’s end, Cone had inspired increasing enthusiasm for Cause Branding, generating more than 70 million media impressions and educating more than 5,000 executives in presentations around the world. Once again, Cone emerged as the discipline’s definitive and undisputed leader.
OPPORTUNITIES & CHALLENGES
With its launch of Cause Branding in 1999, Cone introduced a new discipline to the marketing industry and positioned the agency as the leading expert in this rapidly evolving field. Cone elevated cause-related marketing from a sales-driven, promotional tactic to a strategic, “must do” business practice that enhances corporate brands and strengthens stakeholder relationships. As the reigning industry leader, Cone was in prime position to continue driving the momentum of Cause Branding.
One challenge that Cone faced, however, was that the concept of Cause Branding was now a year old and, with more than 80 million media impressions generated in 1999, it was no longer a new idea. In addition, more and more agencies and practitioners were trying to become cause marketing experts overnight and beginning to clutter the developing industry. Ironically, Cone’s tremendous success in the past year created some of its greatest challenges.
Maintain Cone as the nation’s leader in cause marketing and an expert resource for target audiences, including:
- CEOs, marketing and communications executives
- Nonprofit influencers
- Foundation and corporate giving leaders
- Business, trade and consumer media
- Continue to rally enthusiasm for Cause Branding as a viable, innovative and indispensable business strategy
- Increase knowledge and support of Cause Branding with critical target audiences
- Attract new clients to Cone’s Cause Branding practice
STRATEGY & EXECUTION
Commissioned valuable and relevant cause marketing studies throughout the year. To keep Cone and Cause Branding on top-of-mind throughout the year, and to reinforce developments in cause marketing, Cone identified relevant time periods and national events to commission and release new and trending research.
Today’s American teen population is the largest ever, and their purchasing power is increasing dramatically. To gauge their opinions towards social issues and cause marketing, Cone conducted the second-annual Cone/Roper Cause-Related Teen Survey, an online study of 600 AOL users between the ages of 12 and 17. According to the findings, 89 percent of teens are likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause – a 62 percent increase from 1999.
This past summer, Cone released the 2000 Cone/Roper Executive Study, the nation’s first assessment of strategic philanthropy from a corporate perspective. One of the most notable findings, as Corporate America faced the tightest labor market in three decades, was that companies today are leveraging cause marketing as a recruitment and retention tool. According to the study, 85 percent of corporations support causes to enhance employee loyalty, and 82 percent align with social issues to be a preferred employer.
The fourth annual Cone Holiday Trend Tracker was a national telephone sampling of 1,000 respondents during the beginning of the holiday shopping season to measure the impact of cause marketing on gift purchasing. During the 2000 holiday season, nearly six-in-ten Americans planned to purchase a product in which a percentage of the price is donated to a cause.
In conjunction with former President Clinton’s radio address on the strengthening of society through charitable giving and philanthropy, Cone released the 2000 Cone/Roper Raising Charitable Children Survey to continue the dialogue of this critical subject. The survey, which was referenced in a White House fact sheet, found that while an overwhelming majority of Americans (85%) agree that children should be introduced to charities by the age of thirteen, 70 percent of parents admit their children are not involved in any charitable activities.
Applied proven media relations tactics. To publicize its Cause Branding research studies and increase awareness of this emerging business practice, Cone conducted proactive and strategic media relations outreach.
News releases and fact sheets were drafted and forwarded to reporters at key national, business and trade publications, including special-interest media as appropriate (e.g., human resources magazines for the Executive Study).
Cone compiled case studies of relevant cause programs to serve as resources for the media. These case studies legitimized Cone’s media relations efforts, as reporters were presented with not just a “Cone piece,” but a complete trend story on Cause Branding.
From the research findings, Cone identified key target groups (e.g., women and retailers) that are more supportive of cause-related activities than average. Cone highlighted these results in press materials and targeted special-interest media.
Educated target audiences about Cause Branding through an international speaking tour. The Cone senior team educated major corporations, nonprofits and other industry influencers about the driving forces behind cause marketing and best practices of Cause Branding in more than 20 presentations throughout the year. In addition, Cone participated in parent organization Omnicom Group’s “Partnership Tour,” a six-week whirlwind visit to more than 25 leading advertising agencies in the United States and Canada, including BBDO, DDB and TBWA/Chiat/Day. Through this tour, Cone introduced Cause Branding and the agency’s capabilities to the advertising industry’s most influential executives, planting seeds for future partnership opportunities.
Leveraged emerging trends. Cone continued to track the latest trends in cause marketing to maintain its expertise and leadership positioning in the field. In response to the explosion of online philanthropy efforts, for example, Cone conducted research and drafted the Cone E-Philanthropy Report 2000, a comprehensive white paper that examines the state of cause marketing online. Cone captured the findings in an attractive and comprehensive 20-page report and distributed it free-of-charge at the September “Expanding Philanthropy Through the Internet” conference in San Jose. This premier event was sponsored by The White House Millennium Council, AOL Foundation, Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, Independent Sector, United Way of America, among others, and was attended by 350 dot-com executives, government entities, corporations and nonprofit organizations. Cone also shared this report with select media and distributed letters announcing its availability for purchase to additional key contacts.
Generated more than 70 million media impressions on Cone and Cause Branding in 2000. Significant coverage appeared every month throughout the year, keeping Cause Branding and Cone on top-of-mind with critical corporate, nonprofit and communications audiences. This coverage was overwhelmingly favorable and positioned Cause Branding as an effective, valuable and essential business strategy. Sample headlines included: “Promotional Ties to Charitable Causes Help Stores Lure Customers,” “Community Links Boost Employee Morale, Loyalty” and “When Brands Do Good, Teens Help Them Do Well.”
Extensive national business coverage included: USA Today, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, BusinessWeek, msnbc.com, Business 2.0, Worth and CIO. Business reporters of top daily newspapers also covered Cone’s research studies, including: Washington Post, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Cincinnati Enquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, Orlando Sentinel and Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Key nonprofit and philanthropy trade coverage included: The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Causes & Effects, NonProfit Times, Corporate Philanthropy Report, Philanthropy News Network and ResponsibilityInc.com.
Public relations, marketing and advertising trade coverage included multiple placements in: Inside PR, PR Week, Brand Week, Adweek, PR News, Sales & Marketing Management, Marketing News, Promo: The Magazine for Promotional Marketing and Incentive.
Invited to speak at high-level conferences in the United States and Europe. In 2000, Cone educated more than 5,000 business executives and philanthropy professionals on the evolution of cause marketing to Cause Branding in 21 presentations, including: Retail Advertising & Marketing Association International, Intelligence Factory, The Conference Board, Business for Social Responsibility, Business in the Community, Points of Light Foundation, Center for Corporate Community Relations, Public Relations Society of America, National Broadcast Association for Community Affairs, Harvard Business School, Clorox, American Express and Children’s Miracle Network.
Emerged as a smart, credible expert and key spokesperson on Cause Branding. Throughout the year, journalists referred to Cone as “an industry leader in the philanthropic arena,” “Omnicom’s latest PR jewel” and “cause marketing expert.” Cone/Roper research was cited in Wal-Mart’s 2000 annual report and several of the company’s press materials.
Generated solid new business leads. Cone’s Cause Branding presentations and media coverage bred dozens of new business opportunities, and by the year’s end, Cone had worked with ten percent of Fortune 100 corporations and had added international companies to its client roster. New business acquired in 2000 include: Chevrolet, Sprint, American Express, Kmart, Target, Fidelity Investments, Washington Mutual, Pearson, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Aid Association for Lutherans, Allied Irish Bank and UPromise.
Emerged as an expert on e-philanthropy. Cone served as a resource for a number of media contacts, including Washington Post Writer’s Group columnist Jane Bryant Quinn, whose two-part series on e-philanthropy was picked up by major newspapers nationwide.