On January 25th, the news feeds and timelines of Canadians across the country were filled with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk. This simple yet powerful phrase has become one of the most effective examples of how to use cause marketing to build your brand and benefit an important issue. So as a small business owner, what can you learn from Bell’s campaign?
What is cause marketing?
Cause marketing, sometimes called cause related marketing, can be defined as marketing by for-profit brands based around a social or charitable cause. When done correctly, cause marketing is a powerful way to bring awareness and financial support to an issue while also benefiting your brand through awareness, goodwill, press coverage, and social media engagements.
What is #BellLetsTalk?
On Bell Let’s Talk day, Bell donates $.05 to mental health causes every time the hashtag is used on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. They also donate when people use the Snapchat filter, and for every call and text made on the Bell network.
The campaign’s objective is to help end the stigma associated with mental illness. Since 2010, it has become a highly anticipated event with many high profile celebrities joining in, in addition to a successful marketing campaign.
This year, 131,705,010 interactions were recorded in one day, resulting in more than $6.5 million raised for mental health charities. Since the campaign began, Bell has raised over $85 million for various causes.
The $6.5 million Bell donates doesn’t take into account the advertising they do on TV, radio, billboards, and social media before and during the event. But even with those costs factored in, Bell Let’s Talk ends up being a remarkably cost-effective campaign that earns millions of impressions and positive interactions for over 24 hours, global media attention, and high profile support from around the world.
Considering a 30 second ad during this year's Super Bowl will run you $5 million, that's not too bad.
The strategy around Bell’s campaign can best be summed up by this quote by Mary Deacon, who ran the Bell Let’s Talk mental health initiative.
“We picked a cause that builds awareness and credibility around the brand in a very authentic way. As somebody who has been involved in mental health for 15 years and had both brothers die by suicide, I can say this is an absolute godsend for mental health services. But it’s also helped people see Bell in a different, more positive light and made them think about giving Bell a second chance.”
Cause marketing, when done right, is a win-win for both causes and brands.
What lessons can you apply to your own cause marketing campaign?
Though you’re probably not a giant corporation with endless marketing resources, there’s a lot you can learn from Bell’s successful campaign. We’ve identified four essential lessons you can apply to your next cause marketing campaign.
1) It has to be genuine
Cause marketing fails when it feels disingenuous. If your campaign looks opportunistic, or is completely detached and unrelated to your company, you’ll end up causing more harm than good. Bell has made a huge effort to be as genuine and authentic as possible.
By bringing in high profile spokespeople to tell their own mental health and recovery stories and creating strong messaging around mental health awareness, they have aligned the Bell Let’s Talk day with their larger brand. In fact, Bell has made a 10 year commitment to improving mental health services as part of their overall corporate social responsibility goals, and it's this alignment that makes the campaign work.
The lesson is clear. Before picking a cause, find something that aligns with you - both personally and corporately. Then, craft a compelling story that doesn’t just feel genuine, but is genuine. This honesty and authenticity is a must to have a successful cause marketing campaign.
2) It must be engaging
Consider the hashtag #BellLetsTalk.
It’s simple, easy to share, and aligns well with the overall messaging. And Bell has done well to make it an integral part of the whole campaign - they only donate if you retweet or otherwise post with the hashtag - making it more likely that their brand will spread to a large number of people.
The hashtag itself is effective because it encourages people to tell their stories and share their own experiences, while recognizing that one of the biggest hurdles to getting support is the stigma still associated with mental illness.
Your campaign, whether on social media or not, needs to have a clear and engaging message and a specific action associated with it to help it spread. Otherwise, it will just get lost in the larger noise of content produced each day.
3) It should be focused and consistent
Each year, Bell Let’s Talk grows in popularity and the number of interactions increases. Over the years, people have become familiar with it and actually look forward to it as a positive event.
The key to this is that Bell has maintained a consistent schedule, tone, hashtag, and message around the campaign every year. In short, they’ve stayed consistent and focused on their main goal.
It’s often difficult to resist the impulse to change things or add new ideas. Bell has shown that if you stay focused, you can have success.
4) It must produce real
Bell has committed to Bell Let’s Talk for 10 years, and has already donated more than $80 million to various causes. Producing these tangible, real benefits adds credibility and greatly enhances the goodwill you can get from a cause marketing campaign.
It’s important to remember that you don’t necessarily have to donate money. You can just as effectively donate your time, expertise, or another related service that benefits the cause.
For example, Bridge the Gap helped SquashCF Ottawa, a local charity event, by providing marketing and social media services leading up to the event. We did this in exchange for a sponsorship rather than payment, and were able to increase the number of people that attended.
This is a great example of how cause marketing can work even if you don’t have a multi-million dollar advertising budget.
Consider cause marketing to grow your business
Cause marketing is tricky, and there will always be a certain amount of cynicism and doubt when a brand engages with a cause. But at the end of the day, effective cause marketing can create a win-win scenario for both the cause and the brand.
Done right, cause marketing can create a ton of goodwill and positive feelings towards your brand, attract media attention, and get people talking about your company, all while benefiting a cause that you care about. And that’s the point. You’re benefiting both a cause and yourself.
Want to discuss ways to do a cause marketing campaign of your own? Just send us a message and let us know what you are thinking about!