By Jacqueline Perrottet Tels

Cause marketing is an important aspect of brands’ overall marketing strategies. Younger generations, specifically Gen Z, are linked to supporting brands tied to a purpose. This is not new information, but a recent report from DoSomething Strategic provides unique insights about why so many brands are unsuccessful when it comes to cause marketing.

Many companies lead with a purpose in mind, whether it is social, political, environmental – the list goes on. Too many companies, however, are not aligning their purpose, or cause, with the right marketing techniques. Instead of creating campaigns to support popular opinions and appeal to the masses, it is important for marketers to stand behind specific causes and create a community of people who understand and support what the brand stands for.

Take for example the controversial Nike ad with Colin Kaepernick. This campaign centered around racism and social injustice and while the campaign increased engagement, boosted sneaker sales and became one of the most talked about ads at the time, only 27% of individuals surveyed by DoSomething Strategic associated the campaign with racial justice. This proves that the campaign may have been good for sales and publicity, but it did not successfully attach Nike with the intended cause.

This topic is important as we think about Ramadan and the many companies that use this holy month in their marketing campaigns. While some companies get it right, some get it terribly wrong. Does anyone remember the 2015 Tesco/Pringles blunder where “Smokey Bacon Flavored Pringles” were included in a Ramadan Mubarak display? This not only exemplified the lack of cultural understanding, but also the ease with which marketers attach brands to events and causes without adequately considering purpose.

Many brands are getting it just right this year. Take Landmark for example, which provides their customers the opportunity to donate Shukran points, their loyalty program, to Dubai Cares and other non-profits in the region. This initiative successfully aligns with Ramadan’s spirit of giving, but more importantly it supports the company’s commitment to social giving, which is done throughout the year and is a core mission of the company.

Apple is another brand that successfully bridges an important purpose with company values. They recently launched Finding Balance, an expansion on their popular Shot on iPhone campaign. The campaign supports the importance of self-reflection and connection with family and friends during Ramadan by showcasing important features on iPhones such as the “do not disturb” feature and Health app.

The successes cited here share one important attribute – they structure their campaigns around a value or emotion that is evoked. It is transparent and potentially destructive of brand value when campaigns do not adequately research the values of their target audience. Ian Schafer, CEO of Kindred, a social movement events business, explains it well, “a modern brand lives at the intersection of purpose and company behavior.” A marketing campaign, even a really good one, will not resonate unless it is built on a solid foundation and communicated effectively to the right audience.