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The Rise of Conscious Capitalism

Why supporting a cause is a strategic way to differentiate

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Jonathan Poma
Jonathan Poma
CEO of BVAccel

Jonathan Poma is the CEO of BVAccel, one of the largest and fastest-growing Shopify Plus agencies. BVAccel, which launched in 2013, is a design, development, and marketing agency with a successful track record of scaling digital brands, including Ivory Ella, MVMT, Chubbies, UNTUCKit, and Boll & Branch. BVAccel has been recognized as a member of the Inc. 5,000 fastest growing companies list and has also been named one of the Best Companies to Work for in San Diego by San Diego Business Journal.

What’s Behind Cause-Driven Brands?

At the risk of sounding too philosophical, all humans crave intimate relationships. And those are built best on a foundation of shared values, otherwise known as common ground.

Relationships with brands from whom we purchase products are really no different. We buy products from brands that resonate with us — authentic brands. Genuine brands. Brands we trust.

So, if you think about physical retail, it’s a more intimate experience than shopping online; You can walk into a store and have a conversation with a human to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. And as the world continues to move online, we’ll continue striving for that connection, but it’s challenging to connect to a product or a brand in quite the same way.

However, if we can feel like we’re building a connection or a relationship with a brand because they’re doing something meaningful, then we can feel also like we’re part of something. Part of a movement. And we build that relationship, that intimate connection with the brand and its community, online. It may not be exactly that, but you must find some way for your brand and consumers to build a meaningful relationship with one another. You must find a way to differentiate your brand. To separate your signal from all of the noise.

Supporting a cause can differentiate your brand by creating an emotional bond. But, working with outstanding brands like Ivory Ella has taught us that cause-driven brands have to do more than choose a charity and support it — they need to build and execute a strategy that fosters commitment from their audience.

Choosing the Right Cause for Your Brand

“Donate one-for-one” this, or “percentage of proceeds go to” that…there’s certainly no shortage of brands trying to build equity through philanthropy. But some are winning, and some aren’t. Why?

Well, the first question to ask is, “What’s the ‘right’ cause for my brand?” You want to find a cause that’s at the intersection of your values, your brand’s purpose, and relevance to your product and your customers. Just picking a cause that you think is going to sell the product — even if theoretically it could be successful — likely isn’t enough. Consumers are humans, and humans are intuitive. They’ll know whether or not the relationship between your brand and the cause you’re supporting is authentic. If it’s authentic and it resonates, you’ll win. If not, you won’t.

There’s no finite number of causes that consumers are going to care about, and there’s no one cause that’s more important than others. What’s important is that you find a cause that actually matters to you. That way, you’re aligning your business and your personal values. You’re building a brand that’s authentic to who you are. And the world will notice.

Once you’ve found the cause, you’ll want to make sure there’s authenticity on three levels: The founder level, the brand level, and the product level. If the founders don’t really care about the cause, or it’s not a good fit for the brand or the product, that’ll show too.

A Good Cause Won’t Save a Weak Brand

Many people would tell you to start by building your brand around a cause. I’m not one of them. I’d go the other way. I’d suggest you try to build a sustainable business first. And then find a cause that resonates.

I say this to drive home a point: No cause can make or save your business. Your business model has to be right. It must fit. You’ve got to have a great product and a great brand. And they’ve both got to resonate with customers.

Curious about BVAccel?

Weave Your Cause Throughout Your Brand

To use Ivory Ella (disclaimer, client) as an example they’ve done a great job at authentically weaving their cause (saving the elephants) through their story and through the customer experience.

You can see that their cause is front-and-center on their website, their social, and their products. It’s not easy, but it’s worth searching for an elegant way to do all of that.

Ivory Ella is also transparent, explaining how they’re donating, and exactly what they’re doing. This builds credibility AND helps customers feel like they’re part of something. Which, after all, is what we’re all really looking for.

Conclusion

  • Create a connection – Supporting a cause gives customers a sense of purpose when buying from your brand.
  • Choose the right cause – You should be authentically connected to your cause on a personal level, through your brand, and through your product.
  • Put the business first – Aligning with a cause will never save a bad business. Your brand needs to be strong on its own.
  • Communicate constantly – Use all aspects of your brand (logo, storefront, products, packaging, etc.) to share your cause with your customers.

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