Cause Marketing Is a Win-Win

Anna Pfeiffer, Senior Marketing Strategist

Anna Pfeiffer, Senior Marketing Strategist

Cause marketing is sometimes used to refer to marketing efforts of non-profit organizations, such as outbound email to donors or potential donors. More recently, however, it has come to refer to a mutually beneficial relationship between a for-profit business and a non-profit organization.

By engaging in cause marketing, the for-profit business is able to demonstrate corporate social responsibility and corporate values and ideals. The business also benefits from a halo effect that paints the brand in a positive light. If executed as such, cause marketing can also drive revenue for the business or other goals – such as growing Facebook fans, for instance, while the non-profit gains exposure and hopefully donations. It’s a win-win on both accounts!

Let’s take a look at some great examples of cause marketing and a few tips and tricks for making the most out of your cause marketing campaigns.

Choose a Partnership That’s In Sync

Think about your brand as a whole. What do you stand for? What is your demographic? Pick your non-profit based on these ideals so that your cause is more likely to be supported by your audience. Certain pairings just don’t make sense, or worse, play like a bad joke. Be sure that the cause you choose is appropriate for your core consumers. Unless your brand has a distinct tie to a specific religion or political stance, you may want to steer clear of those types of non-profits to avoid the chance that you may offend your audience. Stick to something that is in line with what your brand cares about.

Take the following example from Crate and Barrel. It’s a partnership with, and Crate and Barrel is donating $100K to fund classroom projects to help educate kids. This is a great fit for Crate and Barrel’s core audience! With a primary demographic of affluent women with families, this cause is very likely to strike a chord with their audience, which presumably cares strongly about children and education initiatives. It’s also a great example of a simple campaign – Crate and Barrel is donating the money, regardless of consumer purchases or reaching any other goal, and they are giving their audience the chance to engage with what they care about by voting.

Use the Partnership to Drive Your Goals

Driving donations for your chosen non-profit is obviously the primary goal, and your business will likely benefit from the feel-good vibe you’re putting out. But you can also use this partnership to drive distinct channel goals. Take a look at this example from Bruegger’s. This campaign benefits the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals but also drives “likes” on Facebook for Bruegger’s. For every “like” they receive, they will donate $1 to the cause. Bruegger’s is very up front that the max they will donate is $10K. Be sure that you’re always clear about how campaigns like this are going to work and how the non-profit will benefit.

Try a Campaign That Drives Revenue for Both Organizations

Another way to benefit both businesses is to donate a portion of proceeds from sales to the cause. This type of campaign allows the retailer to directly drive revenue while championing their charity of choice. It’s a great way to help incentivize people to spend and do some good at the same time! The following example from Ralph Lauren is awesome. First, they’re providing a special offer of 25% off for the customer, but they are also donating 10% of purchases to the Pink Pony Fund for breast cancer awareness. A great campaign that does double duty!

Relevance Increases Response

While any time is a great time to promote a non-profit, certain causes may receive more attention when promoted during specific seasons. When Earth Day rolls around, consider pushing your eco-friendly initiatives. Other causes can be tied specifically to national awareness months. The holidays, when consumers are in the spirit of giving, are also a great time to tie in your chosen charities. If you can attach gift-buying to your cause, all the better. Unfortunate events, such as natural disasters, can also be a good time to connect with a related cause because these events are top of mind and allow your business to lend a helping hand.

This email by Orvis is a good example of this type of campaign. When Hurricane Irene affected areas of Vermont, Orvis took the opportunity to not only alert customers that they were still operational but also to tell them how they can donate to clean-up efforts.

Do It Just Because It Feels Good

Sometimes it makes sense to promote causes “just because it’s a good thing to do!” It doesn’t always have to benefit the business directly by driving sales or other goals. Sometimes it’s enough to just support the causes that your company cares about. Environmental initiatives are a great fit for this. It’s not always about what you donate but the steps you take to make your company a better, more mindful organization.

Take this subtle banner that included in an email. It touts that they are proud to announce that they are shipping some items carbon neutral. Consider calling out causes that you support just for the sake of benefiting the charity – your customers will know that you care!

Give a thought to the charities and non-profits that your business is aligned with. Consider partnerships that will be mutually beneficial. And then start to formulate how you can integrate these initiatives into your marketing campaigns. Have you already started using cause marketing in your efforts? Tell us about it by commenting below!