Bob Doyle, in his letter to Marketing Week (September 11), touches on some of the key ways to ensure that cause-related marketing partnerships can avoid the kind of recrimination which characterises the current Halifax/Mencap relationship: cause relevance, clear objectives, consistency, regular dialogue and the allowance of time to mature a relationship before its fruits can be savoured.
Having determined the right fit, companies must be clear and consistent in their support of causes if they wish to leverage the significant number of benefits which can accrue from well-wrought partnerships. They need to be transparent about their objectives and then to stay in close touch with the issues, forging them both into the corporate psyche. Only then will the full benefits flow, naturally strengthening the partnership.
I trust that both Halifax and its other affinity card partners are reviewing their current fit, in order to identify any potential subsidence in the common ground upon which their relationships were founded. Customers are progressively questioning these associations, such that response to any tangible hypocrisy will quickly extinguish the gathering intensity of the warming branded light which can emanate from a well-managed relationship.
This is where Mr Doyle puts his finger on the pulse of the matter. Unless there is true championship, through committed management and development of the partnership, then that light will be starved of oxygen. And companies need its long-term beacon effect to build compelling differentiation and deep-seated consumer loyalty.
He correctly points out that this fall-out presents an opportunity for other companies to step in and replace the Halifax contribution, and indeed the far wider opportunity which exists for companies to lead the way for cause-related marketing’s inexorable promotion up the marketing agenda. And just as other marketing disciplines lean on outside expertise, there is a small but growing number of practitioners who can ensure that these relationships are built, and regularly developed, on sound foundations.
The fact that cause-related marketing is a powerful catalyst for the Holy Grail of integrated marketing seems to remain something of a threat to marketing departments which tend to remain doggedly compartmentalised.
Given air, this relatively unexplored concept has the ability to break down some of the walls which exist between marketing disciplines (and the sheerer rock faces which lie between corporate affairs and marketing) and offers managers of communications an opportunity to develop programmes and campaigns which are, for once, both truly integrated and genuinely relevant to their consumers.