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Everyone Wins with Cause Marketing

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?

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