Why Marketers Should Care About Causes: A Case for Cause Marketing

By Jenna Lebel From Tide’s Loads of Hope program to Sonic’s Limeades for Learning, we’ve seen a lot of incredible brands give back in 2012. The concept of cause marketing is not new, but it has changed drastically over time. Cause marketing is no longer just about making a large donation to a charity around the holidays or slapping a pink ribbon on your product in October or donating $1 to charity for every new ‘Like’ you get over a certain period of time.


What is cause marketing?

Cause marketing is different from corporate giving. Cause marketing refers to the marketing relationship of a “for profit” business partnering with a non-profit organization for mutual benefit. There does not need to be a monetary donation involved. Corporate giving usually involves a specific monetary donation to a charitable cause. Both are equally effective and impactful.

Why should marketers care about this?

Well, consumers notice. Consumers are socially conscious and do care about how their purchases give back to a worthy cause. The desire for consumers to purchase from socially responsible brands is only growing. According to eMarketer, when consumers were looking to make a purchase decision among two brands of equal quality and price, 53% were more likely to go with a brand with a social purpose. And this trend is consistent across the globe. A March 2012 study from Nielsen shows that 46% of global online consumers surveyed said they are willing to pay more for goods and services from companies that are giving back.

Cause marketing done right

Now that we have a case for cause marketing, we need to understand how best to approach it. If you’re thinking about aligning your brand with a cause, make sure you follow these tips when planning your next cause marketing campaign.

Pick the right cause

A successful cause marketing campaign starts with selecting the right affiliation. Evaluate causes closely. In the selection process, look at causes that align with your company and its products. Also take your customers into consideration. Select a cause that they care about and is relevant to them. You also want to evaluate the history of the cause or non-profit. And lastly, you need to determine if the particular cause has the bandwidth to partner with you.

Be authentic

Consumers have little tolerance for disingenuous companies. If you’re going to align your brand with a cause, you need to be genuine and go all in. This is why picking a cause that resonates with your brand, your employees, and your customers is crucial. The cause you partner with should be an extension of your brand and your customers should be able to feel that. The partnership should feel natural

Do your research

Before you jump in, make sure you understand the best practices and guidelines for cause marketing. In October, New York’s Attorney General issued a set of best practices for cause marketing campaigns. The guidelines were instantly adopted by the two largest breast cancer charities—Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. While these best practices have no legal implications, they do provide some great guidelines for marketers looking to launch a cause marketing campaign. And even beyond these guidelines, cause marketing is not a new concept. Research what has been done before you start developing your own campaign.

What other tips do you have for successful cause marketing? Which brands have done it well? Share your thoughts in the comments.