Branding Social Good: When Companies and Causes Play Nice
Gamification is a largely misunderstood discipline (“Slap some badges on it and voilà! Right?”) and while there may be a lot of games out there that help to promulgate this misunderstanding, there are an awful lot of meaningful gamified experiences that are making up for it. But I’m not here to tell you how awesome gamification is. Instead I want to sow a seed in the rich soil of your marketing plan that—with your care—could grow into an enormous tree. No wait, an enormous success…This metaphor is getting away from me but basically you should really be thinking about the gamification of cause marketing.
I know that sounds like a mouthful of fancy business-speak, but the idea is simple:
1. Partner with a cause
2. Define a mutual problem
3. Collaborate on a gamified solution
4. Change the world
PLAYING FOR THE SAME TEAM
So why does partnering with a cause come first on the list instead of defining a problem? Rather than selecting a cause to work with based on the problem you want to solve, you should find a cause that you actually care about and go from there. Authenticity. You gotta keep it real, folks.
It’s also important to note the similarities between your company and the selected cause. The designers had actual grown-up work to do, so I was left to my own devices with a full pot of coffee and MS Paint…
And yes, the Comic Sans was a passive aggressive move on my part, but you get the picture. Look at all that overlap! Both causes and companies are looking to:
1. Promote themselves through effective marketing
2. Create a positive environment for growth
3. Foster willing participants
4. Raise awareness of their mission
5. Support sustainable action and loyalty from individuals
The only thing that sets you apart (besides some very important federal regulations and GAAP) is what you call your money.
CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?
With so much in common, it only makes sense that causes and companies learn to play nice together. We face similar challenges like:
1. Getting attention from an ad-weary audience
2. Generating positive cash flow for operational expenses
3. Creating authentic goodwill with target markets
4. Convincing co-workers to make more coffee after taking the last cup. Seriously, guys....seriously.
Bridging the gap between the world of business and the world of social responsibility not only serves to bring important causes to the attention of the general public, but also helps to illustrate how important the “problems of the people” are to “big business”, and maybe even that sometimes “big business” is really just made up of a bunch of people that also have mother's with breast cancer, want to save the environment for their children or feel that their public schools are in serious need of a technology upgrade.
While there are many wonderful and effective non-profits with a big enough budget to gamify good deeds on their own, many smaller organizations that have equally important but perhaps more specific missions need our help. That’s where the teamwork comes in. Awhile back we did a blog post about Pyramid Brewing Company working with a group of Trappist monks in California to rebuild a historically significant structure. In the end, the company got some great PR, the monks got help with their building and the public got to enjoy some great beer. Win-win-win.
UGH! BUT WHERE’S ALL THE FUN?
That’s really what gamifying cause marketing should be about; everyone invested in the campaign—from brands to causes to consumers—gets to have some fun. In the past five years, various experts have done a wonderful job of expressing the impact that play and gaming culture has had on industries such as healthcare, education, the environment and a slew of other important topics that we typically discuss in serious places such as boardrooms, libraries or the Business Class lounge at the airport.
Outside of private business, games have also helped to support many non-profit missions that have done a great deal of good the world over. Ever heard of FreeRice.com? Over the past 4.5 years FreeRice.com has allowed players to donate enough rice to feed nearly 5 million people two meals for one day¹ using simple game mechanics and a trivia based challenge.
If just one guy can make such a difference on his own, imagine what your company could do to help your cause of choice achieve their goals. Getting some brand recognition while providing the general public the opportunity to have fun and create a more positive world sure doesn't hurt either.
By harnessing the power of game play that has been so successful in eliciting participation from consumers, and using it to drive participation in branded cause marketing campaigns, you achieve the ultimate in positive action that makes these types of symbiotic relationships so worth their while. So how will you use play to make a difference?
Here are some examples of brands and non-profits coming together for some financially and karmically profitable teamwork:
Insomuch as celebrities can be considered a brand, Crowdrise helps them (and even lowly commoners such as ourselves) to harness the power of their social networks to give back to charities that matter most to them, no matter the size. Crowdrise utilizes game mechanics to encourage participation as well as some pretty engaging and snort-out-loud copy to improve the viral nature of campaigns.
Grantoo is a free social gaming platform where college students play casual games to win tuition grants and donate to charity. Grantoo partners with national brands that sponsor gaming tournaments to help college students and the causes they care about. The platform helps businesses connect with the college student demographic and better showcase their corporate giving.
Cause.it, a new mobile app connecting local business, nonprofits, and people interested in volunteering, has found a way to stimulate business locally while helping people find ways to get involved with charitable organizations. The app allows users to receive discounts at local stores in exchange for volunteering or helping to promote nonprofit causes through social media.
¹ I Wikipedia’d that…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freerice
Who’d we miss? Should YOUR company be on the list? Let us know in the comments below and someone, somewhere will save a kitten.