Brands benefit from sticking to a singular brand message that comes to represent their brand identity but they also benefit from flowing with the times – adapting to the social reality of their business environment. Time and again, Cause Marketing has given brands the opportunity for this adaptability that benefits their image over time. Abeg, Nigeria’s social payment platform and the headline sponsor of the recently concluded reality TV show, Big Brother Naija, did so recently with a twist.
In the age of super-fast internet and easy access to information, customers are increasingly aware of, and seeking ways for social issues to be addressed from all possible fronts – from the personal to the corporate level. A brand is thus no longer a soulless entity supplying products, services, and features to people in exchange for their hard-earned money, consumers like to interact with brands that are willing to take up causes close to their hearts, and do their part in bringing a solution.
Understanding cause marketing
Cause marketing is simply marketing aligned with a social cause. A brand can achieve this in two ways:
1. By partnering with a non-profit organization (NGO) to support the work they do around a cause – say a cancer awareness NGO.
2. By tailoring your campaign around a social cause so that you bring awareness to the cause while pushing your products to the forefront of social discourse. The Abeg style.
The former is the most common in Nigeria’s socio-political environment. From Access Bank’s pandemic year initiative that bloomed to include a number of other brands – the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) – to Polaris Bank’s work with NGO partner Care Organisation and Public Enlightenment to support cancer treatment in Nigeria.
The latter is trickier as the very same pandemic year has shown when the #EndSARS protests erupted across the country and the loud calls from young Nigerians for many of their favourite brands to take a stand was answered by only the bravest brands. Being at the forefront of supporting a cause with your marketing can be risky in an environment that is considered by many as unpredictable.
Yet it can nevertheless be done right if you amplify the demographic driving these causes rather than center your brand in the story as we have seen done in the recent advert from Abeg.
A perfect balancing act
If the events of #EndSARS and its aftermath have taught us anything, it is that the spirit of young Nigerians is unbreakable.
Abeg’s ad opens with the recognition of this powerful trait before a story of sex for grade unfolded and ended with a heartwarming scene that showed a group of young people rallying around the victim with a stream of offers to pick up her food tab using the Abeg app.
With Nigeria’s well-documented epidemic of sexual harassment and assault and the prevailing culture that still hounds victims rather than the perpetrators of these heinous acts, the brand wove a story that brings more awareness to a cause that affects 1 in every 3 girls in the country. It also painted an achievable reality where victims get overwhelming support rather than scorn.
To all victims of this malaise, to every mother or father of a child who has suffered this kind of violence, to everyone acquainted with a victim who understands the weight of stigma one drags through their grief after this violence, there is something soothing about watching that scene.
There is something reassuring about a brand that sees the present, acknowledges it, and paints a future that is better for its customers.
Why cause marketing should matter to your brand
In a 2013 global study conducted in 10 of the world’s largest countries by GDP – United States, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, China, India, and Japan, 91% of consumers said they were likely to switch to a brand that supports a good cause, given similar price and quality. 92% said they would buy a product with a social or environmental benefit given the opportunity, and 67% said they had done so in the past 12 months.
While this data does not capture Nigerians, it is unarguable that Nigeria’s younger demographic are keenly aware of what they should expect of the brands to whom their monies go as the uproar for brands to speak up during #EndSARS showed. Nigeria’s present and future market belong to its majority young population and it will be unwise for Nigerian brands to keep looking away from social causes.
It is perhaps wise to steer clear of potential landmines that could land a brand in deep trouble, but it is certainly unwise to avoid a marketing strategy that could turn your customers into raving fans if executed by the right creative team. The trick is to find one.