Everyone Wins with Cause Marketing

Alyssa Gregory
Alyssa Gregory

Cause marketing, or cause-related marketing, refers to marketing that involves a partnership between a business and a non-profit organization. Typically, the business ties its marketing strategy to the fundraising needs of a charitable cause for the benefit of both parties. Cause marketing goes beyond one-time charitable donations, and can involve active participation on the part of the business.

Cause Marketing Background

Although there were marketing campaigns that involved partnerships between corporations and charitable organizations before 1983, this was the year that American Express coined the term “cause-related marketing.” The company had undertaken a marketing campaign for the Statue of Liberty Restoration project. During the highly successful campaign, each time a cardholder charged an item, American Express donated a penny toward restoring the Statue of Liberty. In four months, more than $2 million was raised for the project.

Benefits of Cause Marketing

The purpose of cause marketing is to increase exposure and awareness for both the for-profit business and the non-profit organization. When cause marketing is effective, some of the benefits you can expect include:
  • An increase in brand loyalty
  • A boost in employee morale
  • An increase in sales
  • Positive press coverage and company reviews
  • Differentiation from the competition
One of the biggest potential benefits is a more favorable public reputation. In fact, studies have shown that most consumers say they would switch from one brand to another if the other brand were associated with a good cause. Of course, the non-profit stands to benefit from cause marketing as well. They have the opportunity to expand awareness of the cause, increasing fundraising and public support.

Potential Drawbacks

While cause marketing revolves around benefiting a charitable cause, it’s not without disadvantages. One major disadvantage can occur if public perception of the relationships sours. For example, your reputation can be harmed if your target audience sees your alignment with a non-profit as a marketing ploy. You can also face problems if the non-profit you are supporting does something unethical or controversial. Then you run the risk of being perceived negatively as well. Lastly, cause marketing isn’t investment-free. When you undertake a cause marketing campaign, you’re adding a financial and/or time investment to your regular marketing activity tab. Depending on how you’re supporting the cause, this can be a significant expense.

Cause Marketing In Your Business

Since cause marketing involves partnering with a charitable organization and doing something marketing-worthy, you need to think in terms of what your business does or sells and how you can tie it into the goals of a non-profit. What a small business can do within cause marketing varies greatly from what a large corporation can do, but the concept is the same. And whichever cause-related activity you choose, the key is to work it into your marketing campaigns to increase awareness. Here are some ideas to get you thinking in terms of doing good for the good of your business.
  • Join a structured giving campaign like 1% for the Planet that helps you donate a set percentage of sales to a charitable cause
  • Launch a co-branded marketing campaign with a local non-profit for an upcoming event
  • Pick a charity and add a “make a donation” option to your checkout process
  • Adopt a local cause and provide pro bono design work to solidify their own marketing efforts
Have you considered using cause marketing? What other ideas do you have for freelancers who want to make a difference? Other posts in this series:

Frequently Asked Questions about Cause Marketing

What is the main purpose of cause marketing?

The primary purpose of cause marketing is to create a partnership between a business and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit. The business aims to increase its sales and improve its brand image by associating itself with a good cause. On the other hand, the non-profit organization seeks to raise funds and increase awareness about its cause. This type of marketing strategy not only benefits both parties involved but also creates a positive impact on society.

How does cause marketing differ from corporate philanthropy?

While both cause marketing and corporate philanthropy involve businesses supporting non-profit organizations, they differ in their approach and objectives. Corporate philanthropy is a direct contribution by a company to a charity without expecting any return. On the other hand, cause marketing is a strategic marketing initiative where a company partners with a non-profit organization with the expectation of mutual benefits, such as increased sales or improved brand image.

What are some successful examples of cause marketing?

Some successful examples of cause marketing include the partnership between Starbucks and Conservation International to promote sustainable coffee farming, and the collaboration between Dove and Girl Scouts of the USA to boost girls’ self-esteem. These partnerships have not only helped the companies improve their brand image but also significantly contributed to the causes they support.

How can a business benefit from cause marketing?

A business can benefit from cause marketing in several ways. It can help improve the company’s brand image, increase customer loyalty, and boost sales. By associating with a good cause, a company can differentiate itself from its competitors and attract more customers who prefer to buy from socially responsible businesses. Moreover, cause marketing can also enhance employee morale and retention as employees often feel proud to work for a company that contributes to society.

What are the potential challenges of cause marketing?

While cause marketing can offer numerous benefits, it also comes with potential challenges. One of the main challenges is finding the right non-profit partner that aligns with the company’s values and objectives. Additionally, the company must ensure that the partnership is transparent and authentic to avoid accusations of ’cause-washing’. Lastly, measuring the impact of cause marketing campaigns can be difficult, but it’s crucial for evaluating their success and making necessary adjustments.

How can a company choose the right cause for its cause marketing campaign?

Choosing the right cause for a cause marketing campaign requires careful consideration. The cause should align with the company’s values, mission, and target audience. It’s also important to consider the cause’s relevance and appeal to the company’s customers. Conducting market research and seeking input from stakeholders, including employees and customers, can help in making the right choice.

How can a company measure the success of its cause marketing campaign?

The success of a cause marketing campaign can be measured using various metrics, such as increased sales, improved brand image, and enhanced customer loyalty. Additionally, the company can track the amount of funds raised for the cause, the level of awareness generated about the cause, and the impact of the campaign on the cause itself. Surveys and feedback from customers can also provide valuable insights into the campaign’s effectiveness.

Can small businesses also benefit from cause marketing?

Yes, small businesses can also benefit from cause marketing. By partnering with local non-profit organizations, small businesses can enhance their reputation within the community, attract more customers, and differentiate themselves from competitors. Moreover, cause marketing can help small businesses build strong relationships with their customers and employees, contributing to their long-term success.

What are some best practices for implementing a cause marketing campaign?

Some best practices for implementing a cause marketing campaign include choosing a cause that aligns with the company’s values, ensuring transparency and authenticity in the partnership, engaging customers and employees in the campaign, and regularly measuring and evaluating the campaign’s impact. It’s also important to communicate the campaign’s objectives and results to stakeholders to maintain their trust and support.

How can cause marketing contribute to a company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts?

Cause marketing can be a key component of a company’s CSR efforts. By partnering with non-profit organizations and supporting good causes, a company can demonstrate its commitment to social responsibility. This not only enhances the company’s reputation but also contributes to societal well-being. Moreover, cause marketing can help a company engage its stakeholders, including customers and employees, in its CSR initiatives, creating a positive impact on multiple levels.