Show of hands: How many top brands use cause related marketing to win the hearts and minds of their target audiences?

You may be surprised at the answer from Cause Marketing Forum:

Although the term “cause-related marketing” is attributed to American Express and its 1983 Statue of Liberty Restoration project, the history of cause marketing as we know it today dates back even further. The actual “first” cause marketing campaign may forever remain a mystery.  For example, Marriott and the March of Dimes conducted a cause-focused campaign in 1976. Famous Amos Cookies and Literacy Volunteers of America also created a long-running cause-related promotion in 1979. American Express copyrighted the term “Cause-Related Marketing” but made no attempt to limit the term’s general use.

Kathy Collins, CMO of H&R Block, has a few things to share about her company’s successful financial literacy programs. She started Dollar$ and Cents for her company with one employee and a limited budget, then moved to a second evolution named The Budget Challenge – which now reaches 200,000 high school students and provides $3 million in scholarships.

As H&R tax consultants know, people struggle long into adulthood with the challenge of managing their money. And as teachers know, high school students who go out into the world can sometimes barely manage their bank accounts.

The average American household has $129,579 in debt, of which more than $15,000 is in credit card debt.

The solution for H&R Block to finding a fit with the services the company provides and the black hole of financial literacy was a brand extension program. “Early on people just grabbed a cause, ran with it, and it fizzled out. But it’s really about what makes sense for the brand,” Collins said in a recent interview with the hosts of Cause Talk Radio.

The success of both programs she’s launched is based on just a few principles we should all think about when launching a cause-related marketing programs.

Don’t get hung up on cause marketing measurement. If you do, you’re destined to fail. Trying a cause campaign means tweaking your content along the way. Use your feedback wisely.

Do create a flexible working budget for your cause campaign. If you can’t track spending, you certainly will get lost quickly. Start modestly and build from your successes.

Tap supporters to help spread the word about your cause campaign. Those who believe in the outcomes are the best third-party validators you have. Use them and incorporate their energy into you messages.

Evolve programs for the next level. Don’t stop at – ‘Wow, look what we did.’ Do more and think bigger.

Check out what Collins has to say in the complete Cause Talk Radio interview here.

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