More times than I can count, I find myself thinking “I have the best job in the world.” Hey, I’ve always enjoyed the work of being a content and copywriter for funeral service professionals. Who wouldn’t? For the past 11 years, every single day has presented me with remarkable opportunities to get better acquainted with funeral directors from around North America. Today, in the work I do for Frontrunner Professional; I get to listen, ask questions, and share my best thinking with some really amazing men and women. Without doubt, I’m blessed; and must say a resounding “thank you” to all I’ve had the pleasure of working with; you make me fall in love with my career each and every day. (And–of course– a big thank you to Frontrunner for making it all possible in the first place.)
On the Other Hand
There’s a downside to my job (just one, which is pretty darned good). I sometimes find myself lying awake at night thinking about esoteric and off-beat topics. It could be “how can I make the history of cremation relevant to today’s consumers?”, or I might spend my time thinking about the causal relationship between grief and resiliency; or the positive effects of volunteerism in bereavement. Right now, I’m currently losing sleep over “cause marketing”; simply because I really do think it has a lot of potential for funeral professionals. In the early hours of the morning, when all is dark (except my bedside lamp), I find myself scribbling down ideas, research directives, and more questions to ask. (You can bet that list comes with me to the office at 5:00 a.m.; like a good journalist, I don’t go anywhere without my notepad.) Cause marketing has become my “white whale”; and I’m committed to the hunt.
Let’s Get on the Same Page
I don’t think anyone is asking, “What’s cause marketing?” But just in case; the phrase refers to a marketing strategy which involves the cooperative efforts of a for-profit business and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit. It differs from corporate philanthropy (which commonly involves a tax-deductible donation of a specific amount to a registered charity); in that cause marketing doesn’t necessarily involve a donation. Instead, it is a long-term relationship-based strategy; one which is growing in popularity and effectiveness. Joanne Fritz, in the online article, “Cause-Related Marketing: What You Need to Know“, asserts “cause-related marketing may become the primary way that businesses express their social responsibility. The growth of cause marketing has exploded, from a $120 million industry in 1990 to $1.62 billion in 2010. Plus consumers seem to really like it.” Of course, she offers readers supportive statistics, taken from a 2011 Cone Communication study. The related press release, “Cone Releases the 2011 Cone/Echo Global Corporate Responsibility Study“, cites these same key findings:
- 81% of consumers say companies have a responsibility to address key social and environmental issues beyond their local communities;
- 93% of consumers say companies must go beyond legal compliance to operate responsibly; and,
- 94% of consumers say companies must analyze and evolve their business practices to make their impact as positive as possible.
Mike Lawrence, executive vice president and chief reputation officer of Cone Communications, was quite clear about the growing popularity of cause marketing with consumers when he stated, “We expected consumer interest in corporate responsibility in these markets, but we got a groundswell. They are demanding companies look at the societal impact they are having and evolve the way they operate.” Here’s the kicker: consumers don’t just expect businesses to put their resources to work for change, they want to play an active role in the effort. “Ninety-four percent of consumers are likely to switch brands to one that supports a cause if both brands are similar in price and quality.” The study also found if consumers are given the opportunity:
- 94% would buy a product that has an environmental benefit; 76% have already purchased an environmental product in the past 12 months.
- 93% would buy a product associated with a cause; 65% have already purchased a cause-related product in the past 12 months.
Cause Marketing and Funeral Homes
Can you see why I’m excited about cause-related marketing? Those are some persuasive statistics, to be sure, but there’s another aspect of the strategy that makes it a natural fit for funeral professionals. (And it’s so very obvious; you may not even see it right away.) Here’s a hint: this is a compassionate, “other-centered” profession; “giving” is a fundamental part of what you do for the families you serve, and for your community. (Over the years, I’ve witnessed countless acts of professional generosity; some seemingly small, but none without positive impact.) This is, in my mind at least, what makes cause marketing such a fantastic fit for funeral service. And now I want to bring the subject to the conversational table.
What Do You Think?
I’m currently writing an article for Mortuary Management on the subject of cause marketing, and the editors graciously included a “call for input” in a recent email newsletter. (I also put the call out using Facebook and LinkedIn.) Unfortunately, I got but one response–yet I hold out hope that this call-to-action will inspire others to get involved in the conversation. (Hint, hint.) If you’ve got something to say about cause marketing and funeral service, or would like to share the story of a campaign your funeral firm has been a part of; I’d be delighted if you’d leave a comment. I’ll happily get in touch with you by phone or email to continue our exploration of this very exciting marketing strategy. (And no matter what, you should all stay tuned for a follow-up blog post, where I’ll share more of what I’ve learned about cause-related marketing.) Perhaps you’ll join me in losing sleep over this thought-provoking subject.