Cause marketing

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the tricks and tactics modern day marketers employ in the age of attention, it’s no surprise that putting your message out there and expecting it to resonate with your audience is an outdated push-marketing mind-set. In fact its authenticity and realism which consumers value over other empty brand promises, adding genuine value to your community to helping them to achieve their goals ultimately leads to advocacy and captivating attention over the noise your competitors are making. But standing out this way can be difficult, consumers are distrustful when it comes to communicating promises and the things brands say they do to help their community; one sure way to create authenticity is through external sources, after all we are far more likely to believe a brand's promise if it’s being told by friends, and not an advert. One such strategy is for brands to coordinate with not-for-profit organisations to help further their cause, but again, this can only be effective if certain measures are undertaken to become genuine, opposed to campaigning for something for the sake of publicity. This is cause marketing; collaborating with non-profit brands to further a shared cause with both them and your community;

“Cause marketing (synonymous with cause-related marketing) is the marketing of a for-profit product or business which benefits a non-profit charity or supports a social cause in some way.”


Cause branding

This type of marketing strategy has been undertaken and utilised by many industry leaders, however these campaigns can still lead the brand to lose perceptions of authenticity and transparency if the brand is not aligned with the cause it is campaigning for. In order to successfully align with the cause of your community, brands need to ensure that they and said cause are relatable and have common interests / shared values. A brands cause should not be tailored to meet the needs of a campaign, and in most cases it is fairly easy to find an organisation that has set out to help the same people as your own business, by approaching cause marketing in this way, brands can maximise authenticity and ensure that they can fulfil the promises they make to their community.

Cause branding additionally attempts to create a permanent association in the eyes of the consumer between the company or brand and the issue.


1. identify your brand's cause

A brand's cause is effectively what it sets out to achieve, however it differs from their mission as a cause is something bigger than your brand, it's a societal change that takes place over generations of marketers and brands alike. Your cause should embrace the brand's essence as well as the problem you solve for your community, by tapping in to a shared vision and helping people achieve it brands can create far more emotive and compelling campaigns / communications that resonate with their audience and turn brand strangers into brand advocates.

An example of a brand cause done the right way is by Chipotle, who campaigned for wholesome, sustainable foods in collaboration with many brands that encompass these values. Including The Savory Institute, The Centre for Rural Affairs and The National Young Farmers Coalition, Chipotle aligns the campaign with their mission to change the way people think about and eat fast food. By campaigning for a cause so close to the heart of the brand Chipotle are able to resonate with their own audience as well as the audience of associate brands. There are many assets to the campaign including a separate website which includes a game, a short film and information about the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation; which is an extension of the brand focused only on continuing and strengthening the brands mission.

2. find your social tribe

Social tribalism should be understood by brands wanting to undertake cause campaigns, creating shared values with your audience starts with comprehensively understanding them, their perspectives and opions as well as how the brand can benefit their lives. People are looking for tribes to connect themselves with likeminded people, make the most of what they enjoy and to become the best they can be. They are happy to be influenced by other members of their tribe as their goal is aligned so the trust is strong. This trust is what offers the most value to brands, as it means that the brand can create authentic perceptions whilst their community carry their message becasue of the aligned vision and values.

A good example of this is by Warby Parker, who have tapped into the emotion of their audience by collaborating with many non-profit organisations to provide glasses for people in need, using the 'buy a pair, give a pair' philosophy the brand has integrated the cause into the very fabric of the business, by exploiting the shared values with their audience, this campaign gave consumers the chance to feel like they were helping others who experience the same problems they have. Needless to say the campaign was a huge success and the brand have distributed over 1 million pairs of galsses so far.

Warby Parker Campaign

3. choose a shared marketing cause

Once you have identified your brand's cause and understand your audience, brands must search for genuine opportunities to further their cause whilst furthering the cause of their community, this can be done by collaborating with a non-profit organisation with which a common aim is present. This means that your brand can communicate with an audience through a campaign which addresses issues they are experiencing, furthers the cause of a non-profit company and represents the mission of your brand.

A large aspect of this value sharing is reacting to events that happen within your communities; moment marketing can be utilised to respond to those in need and let people know that your brand is there to support them, by collaborating with other organisations relating to these issues, brands are able to benefit their community and stand for something greater than themselves. An example of this is by Lowe's, who created an extremely powerful piece around the violent tornados that hit Rowlett, TX in 2015. The brand teamed up with FirstResponse to provide emergancy relief and craft a shared value between themselves and those affercted.

Lowe's Flooding Response

4. campaign without financial incentives

One of the most important aspects of cause marketing campaigns is going beyond financial value; this is an emotional approach to marketing your brand, and as a result, consumers will respond far more to campaigns which offer tangiable value such as providing children in need with footwear or the homeless with food, whatever the final product, it will always (within reason) resonate far more effectively than just giving money to a charity.

This can be seen from Toms, who invested their efforts in social to promote their concept of giving a pair of shoes to someone in need, for every pair sold. This was more than a campaign and reflects the brand's cause, however the use of social media in particular added tremendous value to the campaign and brand. This technique functions far more effectively than offering a financial incentive as peole go to Toms to buy and give shoes, any brand could promote monetary value but this use of cause marketing is a far better reflection of who the brand is and what they, and their customers value.

Toms one for one

5. maintain a social community

A key benefit of using cause marketing is that it builds your brand a community who advocate your cause and communications, this is one aspect which offers ongoing value as once this community is created it can then be utilised as an audience segment with specific values, behaviour and intent, meaning that your brand can facilitate this community and gain not just a following, but a segment that can easily be reached and utlilised with future communications. On this note however it is important not to bombard these groups with general activity as they will only be a member of the community as long as they believe your brand has a genuine interest to better their lives or the lives of those they care about.

Feeding The Hungry, a cause campaign from Anheuser-Busch is a great example of building communities on social, using user generated content in the form of Thanksgiving images. The brand promised to give away a meal to those in need for every instagram picture with the hashtag #ABGivesBack. This campaign encouraged users to upload and share images to get behind the brand's cause and help people in need who are less fortunate than themselves, this campaign made it easy and enjoyable for the community to join in with as well as reflecting genuine values of both the brand and it's consumers. The campaign lead to significant conversations and growth accross social which can be maintained through this shared value.


Cause marketing campaigns can be extremely effective in creating more emotive and compelling communications, by acting upon shared values and a shared goal with your consumers and external organisations. Brands can effectively communicate with their audience in a far more authentic way, without coming across as preaching and without the mistrust of their audience. There are five key steps to crafting a cause marketing campaign, but the most important elements include staying true to your brand's cause so that the brand can fulfil it's promise, finding a tribe to communicate with on social platforms and maintaining this social community.

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