MBA Perspectives: 'Big Design' is an exclusive AMA series examining customer experience design.
It is that time of year again, and we are not talking about
it was Breast Cancer Awareness month. Now the end of Movember is
nearing, with thousands of men around the world growing moustaches to
raise funds and awareness for men’s health issues.
While cause-marketing (Varadarajan and Menon 1988) has been
around for over 30 years, it has developed significantly over time. Today it
ranges from one-off to long-term partnerships, and from product sales and
promotions to program-driven collaborations. It seems though that companies
struggle with using these partnerships to enhance the customer experience. In a
recent survey among major companies and NGOs, the C&E Advisory (2014) found
that only 17% of companies believe that customers are well engaged in their cause-related partnerships.
Wouldn’t it be great if these partnerships could really
enhance a brand’s relationship with its target customers?
We see a lot of products today slapped with “pink ribbons”
or logos, in the hopes that customers will be influenced to buy based on
association. However, to fully utilize a cause-marketing partnership, companies
need to think about connecting with the customers on a deeper level.
Every person has an idea of an “ideal self” that they aspire
to become. That idea is almost always different from their “current self”
persona (Malär, Krohmer, Hoyer, and Nyffenegger
2011). If a company could help its customers bridge the gap between their
current and their ideal self through involvement with its cause-marketing
initiative and its brand, it would be able to provide a unique customer
experience. A strong emotional connection with the customers would be built at
a level that resonates with their values, making the brand an obligatory
passage point on the journey towards the “ideal self”.
Take one of the most successful
cause marketing campaigns that built solid links between a brand and its
customers. Gillette’s “Turning Men into Gentlemen” UK campaign launched the new
razor that could be used to shave, trim and edge – just to grow the perfect
moustache for Movember! To make the “gentlemen-experience” real, a Gentlemen’s
Barbershop and Clubhouse was created where customers could receive free shaves
during Movember and enjoy drinks among other gentlemen.
Gillette historically stood for a
clean-cut look, and needed to innovate as more and more young men preferred to
grow and style facial hair. To launch their new product, they didn’t just focus
on the great benefits the product had: shave, trim and edge abilities in one
device. They wove it into a story and linked it to a cause highly defended by
their customers. According to Gillette, the razor became the number one and
Movember raised as much money as never before in the UK.
What does that mean for brand managers?
1. Speak to your customers’ “ideal self”: Study your customers to find out
what their idea of the “ideal self” is and how it is different from their
“current self.” Then look for a non-profit partnership that would help you move
your customers closer to their “ideal self” by engaging with the cause through
supporting your brand. Is their “ideal self” someone who strongly supports a
healthy lifestyle? Cares about the environment? Helps build a safer community?
2. Design a customer experience: Choose a cause that fits your offer
and make your customers feel they are truly engaged in supporting the cause
when using your product. Invite them to experience the connection to the cause
and to your brand on a deeper level, to feel it resonate with their values.
3. Target the social network: Remember that your customers don’t exist in isolation, but
live in a network of social contacts that influence their values, attitudes and
choices. When looking for a cause to partner with, consider the reaction of
your customers’ entire network and how it will affect them.
C&E Advisory Services Limited
(2014), “Corporate-NGO Partnerships Barometer 2014,” (accessed October 10,
Malär, L., H. Krohmer, W. Hoyer, and B. Nyffenegger (2011), “Emotional Brand Attachment and Brand Personality: The Relative Importance of the Actual and the Ideal Self,” Journal of Marketing, 75 (Issue 4), 35-52.
Varadarajan, P. Rajan and Anil Menon
(1988), “Cause-Related Marketing: A Coalignment of Marketing Strategy and Corporate Philanthropy,” Journal of Marketing, 52 (October), 58-74.