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Responsible Marketing Update for Fundraisers - November 2021

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This article is written by Scott Logie, Chair of the Customer Engagement Committee.

Responsible marketing also makes commercial sense for charities.

I often think that people, companies, brands and even charities worry that regulation stifles commerciality. In the charity sector we often don’t like to talk about commerciality, but it is important. At the end of the day, we want to make sure that we can encourage people to donate to our charity. That means finding the right audience, concisely communicating what the charity or cause is and then persuading them to open their wallet.

For me these two things are not mutually exclusive. In fact, marketing responsibly is not just the right thing to do, but it also makes commercial sense.

Brands getting it right

Outside of the charity sector, let’s look at some brands (including a few I love) that have strong principles at their core – but still make lots of money:

1. Toms
Shoe brand Toms was founded on the premise that for every pair of shoes they sell, they would give another away, but recently they have started to donate impact grants as well, meaning that for every £3 they make, they give £1 away.

2. Ben & Jerry’s
Ice-cream makers Ben and Jerry’s has produced its manifesto for doing better business and highlighted all the ways they are making the world a better place in its ‘7 unexpected ways you do good by eating Ben and Jerry’s’ statement.

3. Patagonia
This is an obvious one, but I make no apologies for including Patagonia. It’s a business that is all heart – and it’s genuine. A clothing business that puts people ahead of profits. I also must mention Ten Trees (they plant 10 trees for every item they sell), Finisterre (raising funds to protect the ocean) and Passenger (over 180,000 trees planted).

4. Hallmark Cards
So perhaps a greetings card isn’t going to change the world, but this initiative by Hallmark is truly showing the love to the people who needed it the most giving out two million free cards to help us say thanks to the people who had really been heroes during these recent hard times.

And the power of principle is spreading: we are seeing great examples from other retailers such as Bloom and Wild, the energy sector (incredibly), even banks and FS companies. So, businesses are being founded on doing the right thing, but then if you work for a charity you probably have ‘doing the right thing’ at your core.

Customer mindsets are changing

From the most recent DMA Customer Engagement research (Acquisition and the Consumer Mindset 2021), we have also seen that consumers are starting to demand that brands do more around areas such as diversity and sustainability.

Since 2016, we’ve been surveying consumers to understand their feelings on how brands engage them whether that’s in context of acquisition or long-term loyalty. This year, our Customer Engagement research returned to a topic we last investigated back in 2019: customer acquisition and mindsets around switching. However, since we last covered this topic a lot has changed… not least the global pandemic that has changed how we all live, play, shop, and work.

How COVID has impacted consumer behaviour

Therefore, we’d be remiss not to acknowledge the nuances of the world we find ourselves in during 2020 and into 2021. As you’ll see from this year’s findings, there have been some interesting shifts in consumer behaviour and acceleration of some of the trends we’ve been tracking since we first started conducting this research.

In the 2010s, following the aftershocks of the 2008’s financial crisis, value-led shopping became the hallmark of consumer behaviour in the UK. At a time of renewed uncertainty in 2021, this intent to maximise commercial dealings remains engrained across the UK consumer landscape. Indeed, 80% of consumers surveyed stated that they expected brands to offer good value for money as standard.

Looking ahead to the coming decade, the evidence presented here points to a second factor that will sit alongside value-led shopping in shaping expectations and behaviour towards brand choice: values. This values-led shopping, where consumers can shop through the lens of the values that matter most to them personally, already holds strong appeal. Over four in 10 consumers would like to be able to filter products by the values that matter to them when shopping online, such as sustainability or localism. Interest also rises to almost two-thirds for consumers aged 25-34.

These findings indicate that value plus values could be the core paradigm that shapes shopping and acquisition behaviour in the 2020s.

Diversity matters

Ensuring that brand marketing represents the diversity of UK society is a clear route to customer acquisition in 2021. indeed, 37% of consumers claim that they find advertising that does a good job at representing diversity more engaging. This figure rises among younger, more affluent, and London-based consumers. For example, 55% of consumers aged 25-34, 51% of consumers in the highest income bracket and 46% of consumers based in London agree that diversity in advertising drives better engagement.

Diversity in advertising is also a key driver of acquisition alongside engagement, with a similar proportion – almost four in ten – claiming that they are more likely to buy from brands that do a good job representing diversity in their advertising. Again, the agreement is higher among young and more affluent consumers. However, it is notable that agreement is highest among 25-34s (59%), rather than the youngest aged group of 16-24s (47%).

So, we can reach a conclusion that brands can do the right thing and make money and that audiences and consumers are demanding that from brands as well.

Why responsible marketing matters

Let’s pull all this back to the topic of responsible marketing, particularly for charities. Often the rules and regulations that are set up by the IOF, or through GDPR, seem exacting, time-consuming and costly. However, REaD Group we have seen at that sometimes it is necessary to bite the bullet and make the investment. GDPR has raised consumer awareness and any mistakes made will be seen, pounced upon and can be costly. Getting the right people and support in place, creating the right legislative and data framework (including a DPIA and LIA) takes time but will be worth it in the long run.

The data that a charity holds on its supporters is one of its most valuable assets. In addition, being able to communicate and ask for more support is vital to the ongoing growth of the charity and its income. The time and effort put in to get the right permissions captured, understood and used will make commercial sense in the medium term.

And, after all, it is also the right thing to do.

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