How COVID Impacted Cause Marketing for Small Businesses

COVID-19 will forever have a place in the history books for being synonymous with devastation. It has impacted lives all over the world in both personal and professional ways. Businesses have shuttered, the supply chain has struggled to keep up, jobs have been lost, and charities that depended heavily upon the kindness of others are in dire straits. COVID-19 has changed everything, including the rules for cause marketing. While some changes could benefit small businesses, others may make it even harder for cause marketing. 

Cause Marketing Is Narrower

When it comes to choosing a cause, it can feel tone-deaf to fight for a cause totally distinct from the pandemic. As jobs continue to be impacted, more people are faced with food insecurity and the inability to pay their bills. While there are still many important causes that need support, the dire condition of our own communities and how to help our neighbors in the Chicago area today make it easy to choose a focus. People everywhere feel a stronger connection and more urgency to support their own communities.

Consumers are going to remember your business for how you tried to connect with them in trying times. When your small business shows that it has a purpose and cares more about its neighbors and community than simply making a profit, consumers are 4.1 times more apt to trust your company and 4.5 times more likely to be a brand ambassador and recommend it to friends and neighbors. By addressing a critical need in Chicago, everyone benefits.

Cause Marketing Is More Valuable

It’s only natural that people pay more attention to causes that are relevant to them. For example, dog lovers are more likely to respond to cause marketing for a dog rescue shelter rather than one for birds. By the same token, because COVID-19 impacts everyone, cause marketing related to the pandemic will be relevant to everyone. Even when spending has declined on large or discretionary purchases, businesses have found ways to connect with consumers.

One example of how brands are shifting their ads’ focus to connect more with their customers is the automaker Ford, which has been in business since 1903 (15 years before the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918).  Over the last year, they’ve pivoted their ads from why automobile shoppers should buy their vehicles to the ways they have responded to other large-scale crises in the past, such as how they changed their manufacturing efforts in World War II to military vehicles. They reinforce their recent call for action and cooperation in a critical time by detailing how they shifted some of their manufacturing capabilities to provide desperately needed medical equipment during the COVID-19 crisis

Small Business Survival is Now a Cause

Because of the pandemic’s impact on the economy, particularly on small businesses, “buy local” now constitutes cause marketing. Many businesses have found ways to shift their focus or utilize existing capabilities to create personal protective equipment, and some are contributing a portion of sales to benefit the communities most affected by the coronavirus. If your business has done something similar, you may be able to get a mention on a local station to get the word out that your small business wants to help. 

However, businesses have had to be very aware of their messaging so that they don’t appear self-serving. While consumers want to support companies that are doing their part to help those in need, shallow, tone-deaf, or insincere messaging could be damaging. 89% of consumers want brands to shift money and effort to create products to fill pandemic related needs. To protect and maintain their authenticity, businesses have had to be mindful that their messages are relevant to what the community needs, highlights how they have helped so far, and details ongoing efforts to support the local community.

Cause Marketing Can Benefit Small Businesses During COVID-19

Marketing can benefit businesses by increasing brand recognition and increasing profits. Small businesses can find it challenging to differentiate themselves and penetrate a competitive market even during a thriving economy. While many businesses have had to close or cut back significantly to survive, others are not only surviving but thriving. Many of those have leveraged a bad situation to benefit everyone in a way that likely wouldn’t have been as effective if there was no pandemic.

Cause marketing in the days of the coronavirus pandemic can benefit small businesses by showing their communities that they care enough to give to others even when they may be struggling. It connects with consumers in a very personal way, as COVID-19 has touched everyone in Chicago. 

A lot of compassion has already been shown by Chicago businesses in this time. Beyond brand recognition, people want to shop at places they see giving back.

It highlights how local businesses are supporting their communities now and in the future. Though customers may not have the money to spend now that they had pre-pandemic, you can count on many of them to remember the companies and specifically the small businesses that appeared to sincerely put their own interests aside to reach out to their communities. 

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