Should Influencers Influence Cause Marketing?
To use or not to use a popular marketing tool? That is the question. Shakespeare, himself, opted for a popular marketing tool when he cast the famous tragedian, Richard Burbage, for the part of Hamlet. This was probably a good idea, since according to Wikipedia, the play "has been performed many times since the beginning of the 17th century."
Engage for Good recently posted "Statistics Every Cause Marketer Should Know." The numbers confirm that cause marketing is big, popular, and works.
What studies also show is that cause marketing works when it is genuine and credible. There is a trust established between the consumer and the brand. An implicit (or explicit) promise from the brand that its intent is to "do good." But the question for brands now more than ever is how to get the word out, and specifically, would a social media influencer's influence influence the millennials who you want to influence?
"Nearly 40% of Twitter users say they've made a purchase as a direct result of a Tweet from an influencer." 70% of YouTube subscribers trust influencers' opinions over celebrities. And according to one study, on average, businesses generate $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing!
People often purchase on word of mouth. Influencers are essentially a paid "word of mouth" recommendation, albeit from someone you really don't know and who may spend his/her life in front of a computer screen. But (surprisingly?) millennials love them. And listen to them.
There is no right or wrong answer here. But brands should be consider the following before engaging YouTube Larry to wax on about the virtues of your product and your cause.
- Genuine produces results. Studies show that consumers believe the main reason companies engage in cause marketing is to make themselves look better. On the other hand, customers are poised to praise companies that engage in cause marketing for the right reasons.
- Continuity and a good fit. Studies also show that most people will support a brand when the cause it supports is somehow related to its product, and even better, when the brand has shown a continued commitment to the cause.
- FTC Endorsement Guidelines. If a brand decides to use a social influencer, it must (and the influencer must) comply with the FTC Endorsement Guidelines. During 2016, the FTC started a pretty aggressive campaign to halt improper influencer practices and laid out certain directives, including requiring the brand/influencer to make clear and conspicuous disclosure of their connection. This disclosure must be "unavoidable" and "very near" the endorsement. This could include a statement (and oral message if on video) that "This is a sponsored ad," or, on social media, a hashtag such as #sponsored or #ad. The brand must also monitor the campaign.
- Agreement with the influencer. Some (but by no means all) important terms that should be included in any agreement with an influencer include: the brand's and the influencer's obligations concerning endorsement disclosures and the influencer's agreement to comply; the brand's right to terminate for the influencer's failure to comply; the influencer's obligation to give his/her honest opinion; and a morals clause (but that's just me).