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'Slacktivism' Is On Its Way Out
By: Casey Schoelen
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Cause marketing has been on a roller coaster the past few years. Consumers went from writing checks and attending charitable functions to embracing social media’s take on funding in the form of sites like Kickstarter and Crowdwise. Social media has brought like-minded consumers together while creating an unprecedented atmosphere of fighting for the common good together. While social media spreads the reach of cause marketing and makes donating to causes a piece of cake since consumers just press a button, it has led to the trend of “slacktivism,” or “armchair activism.”
However, the time has come when consumers are begging to be more engaged. They have lost trust in major brands due to scandal, the downturn in the economy, and other external factors that have made them reevaluate what makes them feel fulfilled. As a part of this need, consumers are becoming acclimated to the idea of purchasing goods to help a cause. It’s a win-win on the buying decision because the consumer gets something tangible out of helping support a cause, and brands are able to improve their social equity in a sense. Strategic partnerships between major consumer brands and specific causes are growing in success and they capitalize on this need.

For example, Sears will be hosting a back-to-school event on August 11, 2012 and will donate up to a certain dollar amount for all purchases made using a special coupon to support the “Team Up & Stop Bullying” campaign. Ford Motors has partnered with Feeding America, a nonprofit organization striving to end hunger in America, to roll out the 2013 Ford Escape. The campaign takes the new model to various locations and invites consumers to come test-drive it. For each guest, Ford will donate 40 meals to Feeding America. One of the easiest brands to think about engaging with consumers this way is TOMS Shoes. For every pair of TOMS shoes purchased, TOMS donates a pair of shoes to a child in Africa that does not have a pair. These types of partnerships afford consumers the opportunity to not only positively engage with a brand or product, but to tangibly feel that they are helping to make an impact.
Why should this matter? Because according to the 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study, 85% of consumers see a company more positively when they support a cause that is important to them. Consumers want to know how they are helping to better the community, and strategic partnerships give them the opportunity to do so while also aiding in brand loyalty. Strong brands stand for something and lending that brand presence to raise awareness of a worthy cause only positively impacts the way consumers relate to a brand. Buying decisions are emotional at the end of the day, and consumers are drawn in by that emotional feel-good moment of helping make a difference in the world.

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About the Author
Casey Schoelen is a young millennial excited and passionate about branding, advertising, and marketing. She is also a Nashville-native who loves traveling, reading the NYT, and watching sports.
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