Brands Embrace Cause-marketing to Reach RenGen

Last week, I had a puzzling conversation with a guy from the tech sector. He was putting together a conference and wanted to know if I’d be interested in presenting. But first, he wanted to know more about the RenGen and what it means for technology marketers. At one point he jumped in with, “I think you are talking about cause-marketing and I can tell you, our audience isn’t into that.” I probed a little. “Just not what tech marketers are interested in.”

This week, Unilever and P&G were featured in AdAge for their growing interest in a type of marketing that makes a difference.

I was heartened to read that young RenGen are a force for change in the marketing sector. RenGen values are driven more by altruism than capitalism. And because they believe small personal gestures can make a difference, they are pre-disposed toward cause-marketing campaigns. Unilever gets this. “We are seeing, particularly with the new generation of young business people and young marketers, that they are only attracted to companies that fit with their own value set,” said Kevin Havelock, president of Unilever U.S. “And the value set of the new generation is one that says this company must take a positive and global view on the global environment. … The ethical positions we take on brands like Dove, the positions we take on not using models of size zero across any of our brands, the positions we take in terms of adding back to communities … these all underpin an attractive proposition for marketers.”

Cause-marketing campaigns have “a big motivational impact,” said P&G Global Marketing Officer Jim Stengel. “It fires the agencies up, too…. It just feels like you’re playing to a higher-order ideal.”

So often in closed-door meetings, marketers brush off cause-marketing and strategic philanthropy as being, “too soft.” Perhaps its because the paradigm shift is still too large for people to grasp. But a younger generation is massing around these social messages and the big dogs with the big budgets are hot on the trail.

What makes this momentous is that Unilever and P&G are often criticized for being laggards, too silo-ed to take risks. Well, the Dove campaign alone proved otherwise. The Evolution video (above) was created for a little more than $50,000 and generated over 350,000 downloads in less than 30 days. The positive press Unilever earned for the Dove campaign is worth millions. Best of all, the campaign has given the packaged goods giant a point of view that embraces the consumer with a higher level of humanism–less like targets and more like thinking, feeling human beings. That is how a compassion brand wins hearts and minds. Priceless!

This thought leadership from the traditional packaged goods giants raises the bar. As for the tech sector’s marketers, it may take longer for them to adapt to the values of the RenGen. And there are fence sitters in other sectors, too.

I’m curious. If RenGen altruism in marketing delivers on so many levels, why do some marketers still consider it too “soft” to be taken seriously? Any theories out there?