Cause marketing can add a new dimension to your brand strategy. 

Group of people cleaning up debris from a park.

By tying the profitability of a product or a campaign to a charitable cause, companies can reach new consumers while maintaining their appeal to consumers who are already on board with the brand. 

The modern era of cause marketing dates back to the early 1980s when American Express donated one cent to the fund for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty every time someone used their American Express card. The campaign was wildly successful, helping a popular cause while increasing the number of cardholders by an astonishing 45 percent

Consumers like cause marketing. When presented with similar brands where one is engaged in cause marketing and the other isn’t, 70 percent say they choose the brand engaged in cause marketing, citing “personal relevance” of the cause as their reason. Furthermore, cause marketing engages consumers on another level. Purchasers can not only obtain something they want, but they can also assuage some of their anxiety about the state of the world. 

Tips for Cause Marketing Right in 2020

Companies that successfully engage in cause marketing have several things in common, including the following best practices

  • They find a cause that aligns well with business goals, such as an eco-focused cause to go along with an Earth Day marketing campaign.
  • They do more than donate money, devoting time and effort as well.
  • They align with celebrities who are interested in similar causes.
  • They’re creative, making their cause marketing efforts stand out.
  • They promote their cause across multiple channels, including social media.
  • They time their campaign strategically, perhaps in conjunction with a regular event put on by the cause they want to support.

Examples of Successful Cause Marketing

Person with a I voted today sticker.

Clothing brands Patagonia and The North Face have had many cause marketing campaigns in support of the environment. For example, their 2016 Black Friday sale profits were donated to local environmental NGOs. In 2018, MTV launched the +1 the Vote campaign which encouraged young people to vote in the U.S. midterm elections and take a friend along with them. 

Beware of These Pitfalls

It’s possible to get cause marketing wrong, however. Perhaps the biggest mistake is when a brand is not authentically aligned with its chosen cause. The internet has made it all too easy for people to discover and share when there is a major disconnect between what a brand says and what it does. 

Sometimes cause marketing ads can come across as tone-deaf. For example, this was the case when Pepsi oversimplified political protests by showing Kendall Jenner “solving” the issue of citizen clashes with police by handing out cans of Pepsi. 

Cause marketing can be an excellent way for brands to differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded marketplace. When done with forethought and in conjunction with genuine action, the results can be outstanding. However, it’s critical that brands avoid missteps, because they tend to be amplified in today’s multichannel world. 

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Topics marketing