This blog was originally published in September 2019. Updated July 2023.
We live in an age of social responsibility. As consumers, we want to feel connected to our brands. Cause marketing, or socially responsible marketing, can create and strengthen those connections: Nearly 95 percent of students say they are less likely to ignore an ad that promotes a brand’s partnership with a cause (Alloy Media).
But cause marketing is worth so much more than bottom-line value. Aligning your brand with a cause that is meaningful to your company and customers can also create a ripple effect of goodwill that makes our businesses and communities better places to work and live. And for that reason alone, it’s a strategy we should all consider.
What is cause marketing?
Cause marketing is a strategy that involves a business or brand supporting a nonprofit organization or charitable cause to support its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. By incorporating social or environmental initiatives into your company’s marketing campaigns, products, or services, you can engage with customers on a deeper level, boost brand loyalty, and contribute to positive societal change.
Why use cause marketing?
Now more than ever, consumers are taking notice of the companies that support their same values and beliefs—and they’re putting their money behind those brands:
- 91% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that supports social or environmental issues (Cone Communications, 2023)
- 81% of consumers say brands must earn their trust (Sprout Social)
“As new generations bring in new values, businesses must learn to pivot their strategies in order to keep up. Businesses that care about sustainability and ethics are at the top of consumers’ lists, and cause marketing can help bring a business’s social responsibility to their customers’ attention.” (Mailchimp)
Define your cause marketing goals
Before diving into cause marketing headfirst, begin with a plan. MarketingProfs suggests that your company’s CSR values provide a great starting point and direction for formulating your cause marketing goals. “Consider not only what is important to your company and customers but also what is realistic and actionable. What is going to help you grow and put your team in the best position for success?
“For example, making charitable contributions might help empower the team. That could give everyone within the company a feeling of purpose, which would boost productivity while growing the company’s reputation within the community in an organic way.
“Be careful not to take on too many goals at once, however. You can’t boil the whole ocean, but you can boil one cup at a time. When considering possible CSR goals to pursue, pick the best one or two. Those should dovetail with your organization’s culture and point toward areas where you can help make the biggest impact.”
Tips for effective cause marketing
Start building your program by using your brand’s cause marketing goals as your guide. To be successful, it requires a balance—one that incorporates benefits for the nonprofit or cause, for the community, and your brand/company. These tips can help you make the most out of your effort:
1. Be Real.
Above all, transparency and authenticity are valued by consumers. Throwing your corporate support behind a cause, charity, or movement that aligns with your mission, product, or industry creates a natural, authentic connection. A well-communicated purpose is essential to helping your audience make the connection between your cause and your brand.
2. Keep Good Company.
Collaborating with reputable nonprofit organizations adds credibility to your marketing initiatives. So, seek out organizations with a proven track record in the cause area and share common values with your brand and audience.
3. Time It Right.
As with any campaign, timing is essential. Do your research: Tie your campaign to a holiday or community event or carve out your window of opportunity that doesn’t compete with other planned campaigns. Always keep it short: Grabbing supporters’ attention over a multi-week campaign can be a challenge.
4. Create A Legacy.
Instead of a finite campaign, your company might incorporate a cause-related element or standard into your everyday operations, i.e., committing to using paper straws instead of plastic or donating one percent of annual sales to a social justice organization. Companies with one-for-one business models like Toms, Bombas, and Warby Parker are great examples of how cause marketing can positively define a brand.
5. Be Clear.
Ensure your audience knows what they are supporting—and what they need to do to participate. A clear call to action is essential.
6. Rally Your Team.
We know employees are increasingly seeking purpose and meaning in their work. Cause marketing initiatives provide opportunities for your employees to engage in meaningful projects, which can improve job satisfaction, motivation, and overall morale. What’s more, your employees are the face and voice of your company. If they’re excited about the campaign, it’s more likely that your customers will be, too.
7. Share Your Impact.
When people give, they feel more fulfilled when they understand their support’s impact. So, share campaign results—not just dollars earned. But instead, offer next-level details like the number of meals provided, pets vaccinated, or scholarships funded. Share stories from individuals who were inspired by or benefited from your efforts. Sharing these experiences is also a great way to ensure transparency and accountability.
A final thought about cause marketing
Cause marketing is a powerful tool for connecting with your audience, differentiating your brand, and positively impacting society. By aligning with meaningful causes, you can create a win-win situation where your business objectives are met alongside addressing social and environmental challenges. As consumer expectations evolve, cause marketing will become even more essential to thriving in a socially conscious marketplace.
If you’d like to continue the conversation about cause marketing or brainstorm ideas about a campaign for your brand, connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.