Maybe someone should insert a caveat for cause marketing

Would insincerity in one part of your marketing operation affect the overall brand image?

Cause marketing when done right, could spur additional sales and boost the bottom line for while improving depressing human conditions. However, I’ve been noticing a proliferation of partnerships that just seems to be insincere or even contradictory.

Maybe some consumers don’t care about branding as long as they satisfy a function or a need but we still all try to discern what values we can exchange with our dollars. Marketing fulfills that function of educating consumers about their product’s value and attempt to differentiate them from others in the same niche. 

But when brands aren’t authentic in their endeavor to add additional value to a product by tying it to a cause, would it discredit the entire brand? 

The partnership between KFC and Susan G. Komen Foundation was a branding snafu since obesity raises the risk for breast cancer. What kind of underlying messages were they trying to send when Snickers teamed up with Feeding America to relieve hunger? Increasing the sale of unhealthy food to feed others seems contradictory to me. And recently, I’ve read that Sketchers is introducing BOBS shoes, a knock-off of TOMS shoes, in a blatant effort towards un-creativity. Their giving model is the same as TOMS. Even the shoe design looks conspicuously the same.

Does a company actually care about the cause or is it just a ploy to extract money from consumers? I know I would rather buy a pair of TOMS shoes than BOBS shoes. I don’t know the results of each cause marketing campaign, but as a consumer, each of the above partnerships actually deters me from purchasing their particular product. Cause marketing is a double-edged sword. 

No one likes being used because that violates our sense of trust. In the marketing world, there’s nothing worse than losing the trust of your customers. So before partnering with a cause or generating your own cause-related sales strategy, make sure it’s authentic. Insincerity will backfire on both partners.

The brand is your social currency. People usually don’t invest in things they can’t trust.