Cause sponsorship is slated to reach just over $2B in 2017. That’s a 3.6% increase over 2016, according to IEG. As brands and companies continue to find new ways to connect with consumers and drive loyalty, charities are benefiting.
Additional research shows consumers, particularly Millennials, are more likely to engage with a brand if that brand is associated with a cause they care about. They may even switch brands if one supports a cause and the other does not. Being able to support charities and gain additional customers is a ‘win-win’ strategy that’s hard to argue with.
The good news for restaurant marketers is that according to research firm Toluna and as reported by Adweek, ‘hunger, homelessness or medical relief’ rank as the top causes that brands should be focused on. Who better to address issues of hunger than restauranteurs.
Adweek also outlined the preferred ways that brands and companies should be giving back. Let’s look at each of these a little more closely in the context of driving additional guests to your restaurants.
Donate a portion of your revenues.
While this is the most preferred option among consumers, this may not be cost-effective for you to offer throughout the year. You can, however, start by choosing to offer this during a particular day or month, and promoting that news can be a good way to increase foot traffic on slower days and months.
Integrate the cause into your business strategy.
This might be difficult depending on the size of your operation, but is a great way to take advantage of the fact that you are in the restaurant category. Where does your leftover produce go? Is there a local food bank or shelter that you can partner with to support? There shouldn’t be any incremental cost to you, and you get the added benefit of doing some good in your community.
Promote awareness of the cause through your social channels.
Again, this only works if you are doing a decent amount of social media advertising already. The challenge here, of course, is that when you only have 15 seconds to catch a consumer’s attention, combining your brand message with a cause is difficult to pull off. Just doing this within your physical locations is not a terrible option, but you lose out on the opportunity to draw in new consumers.
Use the public status of your company and executives to discuss important issues.
This one gets pretty personal and usually works best for smaller, local brands. Keep in mind that it can get risky for national and larger restaurant chains. In this scenario, the cause ends up being tied to your CEO more than to your brand, and that can be difficult in an era when CEOs can come and go. Whatever method you choose, make sure that your employees are bought in as well. That will ensure that this isn’t just a marketing ploy but instead something that is part of your culture and authentic to your brand!