What Is Cause Marketing And Tips For Implementing Successful Cause Marketing Campaigns

Understanding Cause Marketing

These days, people know and care about business practices that were once hidden from the public. They care if the products they consume cause deforestation, they care if the clothes they buy were made by people who don’t get pay a living wage. Not only that but they want businesses to be more responsible and to address societal issues.

Some businesses feel they cannot compete in today’s marketing considering there are so many things to consider now than back in the day. However, instead of seeing consumer’s being interested in business practices as a burden, companies should see it as an opportunity to make the world a better place, which inevitably will lead to profits.

Many studies showed that consumers are more likely to support a brand that champions for a good cause. Just as many, if not more, people prefer to buy environmentally friendly products.

These are the main reasons more and more companies turn to cause marketing and use it as an opportunity to leave a positive mark on the world while achieving their business goals at the same time.

What Is Cause Marketing?

Cause marketing is a type of CSR (corporate social responsibility), a term you’re probably familiar with already, and it means that company campaigns have two purposes – to better society and to increase profitability. Cause marketing is different than corporate giving (companies making donations that are tax-deductible) even though corporate giving can be integrated into cause marketing programs.

There are different ways companies can do cause marketing:

  1. Collaborating with an NGO to create programs that benefit both organizations;
  2. Engage in actions that further social good by applying high ethical standards or production;
  3. Launching for-profit marketing programs based on charitable or social causes.

Who Uses Cause Marketing?

Many companies use cause marketing and many more should use it. Brands supporting non-profit organizations and brands engaging in social causes are prevalent these days. Despite being a relatively new marketing concept, cause marketing exploded in recent years.

Whether cause-related marketing is presented in the form of a partnership between a for-profit and non-profit organization or companies doing efforts on their own, there are many benefits associated with this type of marketing. Companies gain public awareness because they support a good cause and they end up selling more products thanks to the exposure and positive image. In the case of partnerships, the NGO benefits financially but also through the higher profile they have as a result of the partnership.

Overall, cause marketing is a great way to increase profitability and to make your company look good while doing good at the same time. There are no restrictions about who can and should use cause marketing and you don’t need to work for a big company or have a huge marketing budget to do it.

How Cause Marketing Works

Cause marketing is not done low-key, you have to let the public know you’re making efforts for a cause. In order to do it successfully, marketing and PR efforts should be combined and, if you decided on a partnership with an NGO, their marketing department should also be involved to make sure communication is cohesive and the values and efforts are communicated to the public properly.

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There are many ways a company can develop a cause marketing campaign. To make things easier, we decided to list some of the ways that were tried and tested by other companies and to give you some examples as well.

Product Sales

You can sell products, support a cause, and make profits at the same time. There are many brands that did this successfully and this is one of the easiest ways to do cause marketing. To do it, you have to create products for the cause or to sell specific products from your inventory for the cause you’ve chosen. When people buy your products, a portion of the selling goes to the NGO or cause you decided to support.

Purchase Plus

Usually done by companies that have actual stores, this type of cause marketing campaign involves the customer donating money for the non-profit partner of the brand. This can be done with donations boxes but customers can add the donation to their bill as well. Checkout campaigns raise a lot of money for non-profits easily and the brand’s effort is minimum. Also, this type of cause marketing campaigns can be done by online shops as well.

Social Marketing

Social marketing involves using marketing principles and techniques to generate a positive change in customer’s behavior. Depending on the company and its goals, this type of cause marketing can be done in partnership with an NGO or not. The Great American Smokeout is a good example of social marketing campaign.

Creating Products For Non-Profits

Most NGOs sell promotional items such as mugs, T-shirts, bracelets, and similar items with their logo printed on them. Companies can support non-profit organizations by providing them with products or by helping them to personalize their products. In return, the non-profit endorse the company and the products sold by the company.

Co-branded Programs or Events

Races for a cure are good examples of co-branded events companies can take place in to support their cause marketing efforts. But there are many other ways to do it – companies can develop programs with non-profits in an effort to raise money for a cause or to create events that benefit people.

Corporate Sponsorship

Don’t confuse corporate sponsorship with corporate donations since they are different and the first one can be integrated into cause marketing programs. Companies can sponsor events and programs that are time-limited in return for exposure. In this type of cause marketing exposure can come in different forms – promotional materials, publicity or public service announcements.

Implementing And Developing Cause Marketing Campaigns

As shown in our previous examples, cause marketing comes in different forms and looks different for different companies. However, for a successful program, campaign or partnership, there are things all companies should do. Here are the things you should consider before engaging in cause marketing:

Choose something you believe in – Cause marketing work best when staff members believe in the cause the brand is supporting. Their passion will reflect on the work they do for the program.

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Find a cause related to your brand or brand’s values – While there are random partnerships that created successful cause marketing campaigns, it is best to find a cause that is somehow related to your brand or its values. It will appear more genuine if you do it this way.

Collaborate with your partners – Make sure you collaborate with your partners to maximize the results and exposure for both organizations involved. Developing a strategy that benefits both organizations is crucial.

Be involved – Don’t just contribute money, make sure you offer your expertise and time too. While donating money is helpful, integrating social good in your company is more helpful in the end.

Encourage user-generated content – Using traditional media and social media to promote your cause marketing campaign or product is mandatory but user-generated content is just as good. And it will cost you nothing so make sure you engage with customers or the people benefiting from the program or campaign by encouraging them to share their experience, pictures, and so on.

Possible Disadvantages of Cause Marketing

There are many advantages associated with cause marketing but, if you don’t choose your partnerships wisely, you can damage your reputation and end up being perceived negatively by the public.

Product strategies and campaign strategies shouldn’t overpower the humanitarian part of the programs. Make sure the emphasis is and stays on the cause, not the products.

Moreover, who you are associated with matters a lot. A brand that sells products that are perceived as unhealthy being involved in cause marketing with a health cause of a non-profit can damage the reputation of both organizations.

Cause Marketing Examples

The concept of cause marketing is a great one but it’s even better when you see the greatness in action. It also helps to understand how impactful great cause marketing campaigns can be when they are done right, thus we decided to show some great examples of cause marketing campaigns developed by companies in the past two decades.

Starbucks and World AIDS Day

Every year on World AIDS Day, Starbucks donates a few cents of beverages sold to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. Each year Starbucks announces the beverages customers should buy if they want to participate in the program and, over the past 11 years, they contributed more than $15 million to the cause. To show the impact made by the company and its clients, Starbucks features personal stories of people who benefited from the program and the results of their efforts.

This is a great example of cause marketing that uses the checkout charity mechanism and user-generated content.

Make Safe Happen

Make Safe Happen is a campaign launched in partnership by three organizations – Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Nationwide Insurance, and Safe Kids Worldwide. The main goal of the campaign is to prevent injuries and death of children in their own homes. To achieve their goal, the organizations worked together to inform parents about potential hazards and to offer tips for how to make their homes safer for children. This campaign’s purpose is to educate parents not to raise funds and it’s a great example of a campaign that focuses on goals that are not financial. However, the campaign’s impact was major and participants took over 19,772,202 safety actions. Everything started with a website that offers safety tips and it extended to swim lessons, an app, videos, and Safe Kids programs.

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Coca Cola and WWF’s Arctic Home

You know the cute unofficial mascot of Coca Cola, right? Yes, we’re talking about the adorable polar bear. When Coca Cola learned the actual polar bears are in danger, they decided to get involved and team up with World Wildlife Fund to raise money to find a way to keep polar bears safe by doing research to find out the best way to preserve the ice caps that are melting. Coca Cola raised money via text messages. Every Coca Cola bottle came with a code that consumers could send to the provided phone number to donate $1. The campaign raised over $2 million dollars and, since them, the two organizations worked together on other campaigns and products.

This campaign is a great example of supporting a cause that’s somehow related to your brand. And, since their initial collaboration was so successful, the two companies worked together on other cause marketing programs.

Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign

Unilever launched Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign for its brand Dove. The campaign launched in 2004 and since then it developed into a program with a mission. The mission of Dove is to make women love their bodies and to increase their self-worth. The program had ups and downs since it launched but Unilever managed to maintain its success and to develop many campaigns and additional programs such as the Dove Self-Esteem Project, campaigns such as Project #ShowUs, #GirlCollective, Women Portraits, Beauty Get Told, #InMyOwnSkin, and to create resources for teachers, parents, and youth.

Dove’s programs are great examples of a brand launching a for-profit marketing program for a good cause without collaborating with an NGO or by donating money.

Dumb Ways To Die

Created for Metro Trains in Melbourne, Dumb Ways To Die is a campaign that was developed with the purpose of reducing train station accidents and to increase train station safety.

The very catchy video with the even catchier song and the lovely animated characters made the campaign a success. In the first three months, the train station accidents fell 20%. The message is basic – don’t do dumb things if you don’t want to die but the execution and the way the messages were delivered to the public made a huge difference.

Dumb Ways To Die managed to maintain a positive, fun tone of voice despite the serious issues they were trying to fix. Not only that but the campaign used different marketing methods – videos and games – to deliver the public service announcement.



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