4 Guiding Principles for Social Good Campaigns

by Kate_NFG on ‎07-29-2011 8:00 AM, EDT - last edited on ‎12-19-2012 6:31 PM, EST by Network for Good Specialist

Cause marketing is everywhere these days, but not all efforts are created equal.  Some campaigns truly understand how to balance business and social impact goals to drive real results.  Others can seem more like green/pink/white-washing.  To ensure your next cause marketing effort hits the spot, here are 4 guiding principles to keep in mind.  These principles will help you home in on the right audience, goals and execution strategy for your campaign.  Bottom line, it’s all about the human element.


1. People are inherently generous

Research demonstrates that giving makes people happy.  There’s a chemical release of endorphins in the brain that makes people feel good when they do good.  For example, people who committed random acts of kindness were significantly happier than those who didn’t.  Likewise, spending money on others makes people happier than spending money on themselves.  This phenomenon is  referred to as a ‘helper’s high’ and can be a powerful emotion to capture through a branded engagement.  Imagine if your customers translated their feelings of happiness to your brand because your company enabled their act of good?   Now that’s  a halo effect!


Example: Random Acts of Kindness are a huge trend in cause marketing this year.  You can read more about why making people happy is such a hit with consumers in a Companies for Good blog post from earlier this year.


2. People respond to compelling appeals

Even though people are inherently generous, they still need to be asked or reminded to give.  Humans are irrational and emotional and cause-related campaigns must appeal to those aspects of human nature.  While the rational side of the brain understands statistics and can comprehend the scale of a particular social problem, people don’t rely on rational constructs to make most decisions and won’t find the urgency and tangibility in a call to action that speaks in generalizations.  People respond to appeals that focus the need on the one child you can save with a donation for a vaccine or the one woman whose life will be changed by a microloan to start a community business to support her family.  Specificity, tangibility and powerful images are the keys to capturing the heart of consumers.


Example: Malaria No More does a fantastic job of making their mission – to end malaria deaths in Africa by 2015 – tangible and compelling.  Their appeals feature powerful human faces, with clear, discrete and motivating calls to action.


3. People are inspired by stories

Just as people respond to emotional images and calls to action, they are also inspired by stories about doing good and conversely being helped by those good deeds.  Allowing people to continue the conversation about the good your campaign inspires allows participants to extend their helper’s high.  Additionally, building a community around cause-related brand experiences adds to the stickiness factor of your brand and gives consumers a reason to keep engaging with your company. 


Example: The Pampers Facebook strategy translates the brand experience into a community for new parents to share stories about being parents.




4. Social proof inspires generosity

People are social creatures and like to know what others are up to.  Not only that, people trust their peers and the wisdom of crowds more than they trust experts.  Therefore, social proof – in the form of impact thermometers or social sharing, for example – is a vital component of a consumer campaign.  Additionally, people like to be thanked and recognized for their gift and social proof is one way to communicate impact and remind participants that their action mattered.


Example: The Levi’s Water<Less brand partnership with Water.org does a great job of illustrating the impact the brand’s water-saving activities achieve for access to clean drinking water in developing countries.  Their water tank in the shape of a pair of jeans filling up with gallons of water both represents the collective impact of the campaign and inspires others to participate to get closer to the goal.




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Companies for Good shares insights on cause marketing and corporate social responsibility topics to inform your charitable engagement with consumers and employees. Network for Good empowers corporate partners to unleash generosity and advance good causes. The blog celebrates that work and provides expertise and resources to help you do well and do good. Learn more

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