Image ©Vogue/Evan Sung
When I read an article from Vogue about Nordstrom opening a charitable NYC concept shop, it got me thinking about the future of cause marketing. In case you’re not familiar, cause marketing is basically a type of marketing involving the cooperative efforts of a for profit business and a nonprofit organization for mutual benefit. There are a tremendous amount of cause marketing initiatives in the world today with some of the most notable being Product (Red), TOM’s shoes, and Yoplait's "Save Lids to Save Lives."
But Nordstrom is pushing the boundaries of cause marketing. The new store called Treasure & Bond has a boutique, fashion forward vibe that donates all of its proceeds to charity. I believe this is an amazing precedent for such a large retailer to set and hopefully it inspires others to follow suit. But while it’s a great measure of good faith by Nordstrom, from what I can tell it also has the potential to be pretty good for their bottom line.
According to the Edelman goodpurpose® Consumer Study, 62% of global consumers would switch brands if a different brand of similar quality supported a good cause. It’s also worth noting that similar studies showed a considerable increase from just before to just after September 11, 2001 – indicating a greater interest in cause marketing during challenging times. This makes me wonder if we will see similar statistics that support these ideas as we climb out of a recession. Consumers not only have become more aware of where their money is going, but they may be looking for alternatives in lieu of contributing cash directly to nonprofits when budgets are tight.
So with the name Nordstrom tied to Treasure & Bond, customers may develop a stronger sense of brand loyalty to Nordstrom in general and thus it could become their department store of choice, benefitting Nordstrom’s chosen nonprofits as well as its own bottom line. In 1981 a time-tested cause marketing campaign by American Express had similar positive results: the company saw a 17% increase in new users and a 28% increase in card usage in the San Francisco area when the company donated two cents each time new members applied for a card and more when it was actually used. The funds totaled $108,000 and went on to benefit nonprofits associated with the San Francisco Arts Festival. More recently, American Express has donated $4.5 million through its Members Project promotion that uses social media to connect consumers to charities. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact Treasure & Bond can have in 2011, with Nordstrom committed to donating a full 100% of the store’s profits.
With that being said, I know I would have greater loyalty to a brand that supports a nonprofit over competition that does not. Would you?
Amberlee Isabella is an interior and graphic designer in Gensler’s Atlanta office focused on international retail work and is part of the team that is bringing Abercrombie and Fitch abroad. Amberlee has a passion for branding, trend forecasting and fashion. In college, she led the largest student-run philanthropy in the Southeast, DanceBlue which inspired her interest in nonprofit design. In 2010, Amberlee spoke at NeoCon on personal branding and is currently serving on the IIDA Georgia board. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.