Cause marketing can be a tough sell. You need to tell a story that compels the audience to take action, while resisting the pitfalls of coming across as desperate or preaching. The medium can make a big difference.
Unlike static images or text, video gives cause marketers the sensory tools to tell the type of rich, moving story that delivers important information while conjuring necessary emotion. To be successful, cause-related content needs to be sufficiently informative so viewers understand the cause, as well as appropriately digestible so they find it easy and enjoyable to share with others. It also has to be timely so it can be part of a larger conversation happening around the cause. Like any video, it needs to grab the viewers’ attention in 3 to 10 seconds to stop them from scrolling past. And it needs to be relatable and relevant to your audience so they are inclined to engage with you.#Video gives marketers the sensory tools to tell rich, moving stories that conjure emotion, says @CyndiC02. Click To Tweet
All that sounds like a tall order, but best practices can help marketers check all those boxes when approaching cause-marketing content. I’ve taken a closer look below at a few brands that got it right: Rescue Chocolate (self-disclosure: an Animoto customer), Girls Who Code, and UPS.
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Rescue Chocolate takes a stand against Montreal’s pit-bull ban
Brooklyn-based Rescue Chocolate donates 100% of its net profits from the company’s organic chocolate sales to animal rescue organizations around the country.
Last September, Montreal’s city council passed a bill severely restricting pit-bull ownership and adoption that would have led to an increase in pit bulls in city shelters being euthanized. As the decision became international news overnight, Rescue Chocolate posted a video to its Facebook page to take a stand against the law with a link to a Change.org petition. Over 360,000 views, nearly 10,000 shares, and 500-plus comments later — this small business played an integral role in raising international awareness. The SPCA of Montreal filed suit to stop the law.
Why did the video work? It was:
- Timely – The video gets posted one day after the Montreal bill was passed. Rescue Chocolate responds quickly to a story as it was trending, inserting themselves into breaking news in an organic way.
- Short – At just 30 seconds, the video gets the message across without fuss by putting the dogs front-and-center from the beginning.
- Simple – It uses a short video clip accompanied by a mix of original and stock images. An emotional, instrumental score adds gravity to the imagery. The law’s consequences are outlined in short, pointed blocks of text that don’t overwhelm the images. Including the text compels viewers to engage with the video even if their social feed is on silent auto-play.
- Scrappy – Rescue Chocolate demonstrates another important lesson — at times fast is better than perfect. It created the video in-house rather than outsourcing the project and missing the critical timeliness that this topic called for.
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Girls Who Code sends a message with humor and heart
Girls Who Code is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology. Between the ages of 6 and 12, girls represent 66% of students interested in and/or enrolled in computing courses. But between the ages of 13 and 17, girls only represent 33% of students interested in computing courses.
This past summer, Girls Who Code created a video with a simple concept — ridicule the ridiculous by having young women sarcastically adopting sexist rhetoric to explain why they couldn’t code. The video went viral, amassing nearly a half-million views on YouTube and garnering media coverage in national publications.
How did they do it?
- It is funny without losing the integrity of the cause. This video deploys humor and sarcasm in a way that is not only effective, but also true to the larger brand of Girls Who Code. Humor is an incredibly powerful tool if it happens organically. For example, humor would have been completely off-putting in the Rescue Chocolate pit-bull video. Find a proper tone to fit your topic and brand, and you’ll be on your way to creating better content and driving higher engagement.
- It doesn’t include a song. In the other two videos mentioned in this article, instrumental songs — one somber, one upbeat — underscore the mood. Girls Who Code opted to punctuate scenes with a musical track that comes in and out and plunks along to the phrases of the girls speaking, adding drama to their dry sarcasm.
- It speaks directly to the audience. It may seem obvious, but the teens in this video are the reason the message is authentic and resonates with the audience Girls Who Code is trying to reach.
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UPS and Northwest Battle Buddies share the story of a man and his dog
UPS partnered with Northwest Battle Buddies, a nonprofit that rehabilitates shelter dogs to be service animals for U.S. veterans suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder as part of the package delivery company’s annual #WishesDelivered initiative.
In the 2-minute, 41-second video, they were able to use the organic moments shared between veterans and their new dogs to promote the cause. The video tells the story of Art Nelson, a veteran suffering from PTSD, and the joy he found in receiving his service dog, Trigger, who he calls a “godsend.” It walks the viewer through Art’s story and the work of Northwest Battle Buddies, and ends with the surprise — delivery of a new, UPS-funded service dog to a veterans’ support group.
What’s happening to encourage this strong emotional response? The creators chose to:
- Tell one complete, personal story. Focusing on one veteran and his experience returning home, the video informs viewers on the mission of the organization. Not only straightforward, the video’s message is easy for people to get behind and they feel good passing it along to others.
- Keep community top of mind. This video taps into a close community predisposed to share this story — veterans and their families.
- Use the power of real people. Having a veteran who has encountered the challenges addressed by the nonprofit and who has experienced the benefits it offers lends credibility to the story. A person sharing his or her real experience in a powerfully personal medium like video almost always creates a stronger emotional response.
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As UPS, Northwest Buddies, Rescue Chocolate, and Girls Who Code show us, the power of video can be gained without spending a lot of money or taking a lot of time. These examples illustrate that the keys to a successful video, particularly for cause-related marketing, are that it’s:
- Sufficiently informative for viewers to understand
- Digestible for viewers to easily enjoy and share
- Timely enough to be part of a larger conversation
- Attention-grabbing in the first few seconds
- Relatable (and resonates) with viewers
Those lessons are invaluable for anyone who wants to harness the benefits of video in their content marketing programs.
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Cover image by StockSnap via freestocks.org