February 3, 2022 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
In the modern world of social and political awareness, it’s important for businesses to have a greater mission than selling products and making money. But the concept isn’t as new as it may seem. American Express coined the term “cause marketing” in 1983, with a campaign aimed at restoring the Statue of Liberty. Some of the oldest cause marketing examples came before the name, such as the creation of the Jerry Lewis Telethon in the 1960s. What makes cause marketing so appealing? We’re finding out by exploring topics like:
Cause marketing is a partnership between a for-profit organization and a nonprofit for mutual benefit. The umbrella also includes for-profit companies that engage in socially conscious behavior to bring awareness to certain issues. Sometimes, cause marketing applies to businesses that create their own causes to support, such as starting foundations or scholarship funds. The exact definition of cause marketing receives constant updates thanks to innovation from disruptive marketers in all industries.
There are multiple ways a company can engage with cause marketing in its campaigns, including:
Some reasons to engage in cause marketing with your brand include:
Engaging in cause marketing makes your brand look better to your audience. You may attract new customers who support the causes you promote with your brand. Cause marketing also increases brand loyalty for current customers or followers who already like your products. They may become even more interested in the company if it supports causes they like.
Online and offline communities benefit when big businesses share the messages of smaller nonprofits. This type of collaborative marketing creates bonds and partnerships perfect for sharing resources. The bigger the partnership, the more publicity you can get for all the organizations involved. Doing so further spreads positive messages and increases brand awareness.
Related: 7 Ways To Increase Social Engagement
People like to work for companies that share their morals. Today, many jobseekers look beyond benefits and pay when choosing a career. They review a company’s leadership too, to see what they’re doing to take care of their employees and the overall world. If businesses support causes that their employees care about, this increases company loyalty. The practice also boosts morale and the excitement of coming to work each day.
When your company creates a cause marketing campaign, it’s another way to show your audience how you’re different from the competition. Even if your competitors also engage in cause marketing, your brand may choose a different social issue to support. Or you may find a different way to bring awareness to the same cause. In either event, cause marketing is a chance to personalize your message to stand out from the competition.
Any business, big or small, has the option to take part in cause marketing. For example, shops in small towns may host sponsor nights, where a portion of the evening’s sales to go a local nonprofit. Here are a few large-scale cause marketing examples in the corporate world:
BoxLunch is a pop culture retail store that’s entire business model focuses on cause marketing. The corporation donates a meal to someone in need through Feeding America for every $10 spent in-store at every location and online. Another example of the cause marketing initiative happens when cashiers and automated prompts ask customers at checkout to round up their totals to the nearest dollar to provide additional meals.
Aerie is the activewear and underwear subgroup of the American Eagle brand. In 2014, the company launched the Aerie REAL campaign. It focused on sharing images with untouched or unedited models. This practice went against the normal expectations of airbrushing or using models with the “right look” in the industry. With the campaign, Aerie promoted body positivity by selling products to real people using models who looked like them. Since then, the movement expanded to include models with disabilities, promotions for healthy lifestyles, and partnerships with groups like the Special Olympics and Crisis Text Line to inspire overall wellness and inclusion.
Dawn has engaged in cause marketing campaigns for over 40 years. One of the company’s primary causes is rescuing and protecting wildlife affected by oil production and spills. Dawn claims its products help clean and save animals caught in oil spills. Corporate leadership donates bottles of liquid detergent to The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC) and International Bird Rescue (IBR) to help with these life-saving efforts. To further promote these efforts, Dawn uses ads that show their products in action and they include images of animals saved on product packaging.
The Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer is a recognizable example of a corporate and nonprofit partnership for cause marketing. The foundation raises money to help with childhood cancer cures and research. Alex’s Lemonade Stand has a variety of corporate sponsors, including Applebee’s and Rita’s.
Most corporate partners ask their customers to donate money to the organization upon purchasing other products. The customers write their names on or design a lemon to hang on the business’ “Wall of Hope.” Designs stay up for the duration of the fundraiser. Rita’s took the partnership further by naming its lemon-flavored ice Alex’s Lemonade, after the organization.
Chili’s has partnered with St. Jude since 2002 to support its efforts of making sure no family with a child undergoing treatment through the network receives a care bill. The restaurant does this through its “Create a Pepper” campaign. Similar to Alex’s Lemonade Stand, patrons purchase a Chili’s logo pepper coloring sheet for a donation. Participants customize the designs to hang in the restaurant during the fundraising period. Since the invention of social media, Chili’s added a “Share a Pepper” option and hashtag to use on social media and get even more awareness for the campaign.
Box Tops for Education partners General Mills with participating schools. When the program started in 1996, parents, grandparents, or any participants could clip the Box Tops logo off specially marked packages and donate them to a local school. The school could then redeem the tops for money to help with needs, like buying library books or getting new playground equipment. Participants can now use a mobile app to scan their grocery recipes to find products rather than snipping and sending tangible labels.
The LadyAID Fund of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee is a philanthropic organization from the country music band Lady A. This is a unique example of cause marketing because it’s not sponsored by an organization, but the band isn’t a nonprofit itself. Starting foundations and doing charity work in this way is often popular for musicians, sports teams, and other individual athletes or artists.
The organization supports charitable causes from around the world, like St. Jude and the Boys and Girls Club. A secondary brand of the organization, the LadyAID Scholarship Fund, supports students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities to help break down financial barriers to higher education. The foundation raises funds through online donations and special events like band merchandise sales or product auctions.
Starbucks partners with Arizona State University and offers Starbucks benefits-eligible employees the opportunity to attend college without paying for tuition. Employees choose from 80 undergraduate programs and schedule their work shifts around their courses. The company started the program in 2018 to bring awareness to the inequality of college affordability and help employees looking to improve their skills or advance their careers.
Image via HeadCount
The Ben & Jerry’s Democracy Is In Your Hands campaign introduced a brand new ice cream flavor, aptly named Empower Mint. The campaign content marketing materials also provided information about voting inequality, voter suppression laws, and the importance of making sure everyone can complete their civic duty. Though the ice cream flavor was a one-time product launch, the company often revives this campaign during each major election season to bring awareness to the issues.
Bandcamp is a website for musicians to upload and sell their music directly to fans. Labels also host e-commerce stores for artists through the service. The company collects about 15% of its profits from music sales and 10% from merchandise sales. In 2020, the organization started the Bandcamp Friday initiative to wave the company’s share of sales so that artists can get paid more for their materials.
This idea came about as a response to learning that the royalties for music on streaming services are often low and vary from platform to platform. Because Bandcamp hosts many smaller, independent artists who may not tour or have notoriety, it’s passionate about working to offset the income gap.
In 2019, the razor and body care company Billie started the Project Body Hair campaign to normalize female body hair and redefine beauty standards for women. The company noted that even in advertisements for razors, shaving cream, and related products, brands don’t show women with body hair. Taking the movement a step further, company leadership is also vocal about abolishing the pink tax, or the practice of charging women more money for products that could be gender neutral, like razors.
Red Nose Day is a nationwide campaign to end child poverty in the United States and around the world. Since it started in 2015, the campaign’s big fundraising event typically takes place in the spring and has a variety of corporate partners. Organizations like Walgreens and Save the Children take donations from sponsors and customers to raise money. Others, like NBC, run special events on their networks, such as an episode of the game show Celebrity Escape Room. Throughout the broadcast, advertisements encouraged viewers to donate to the fund and see real-world examples of the good their donation can do.
Warby Parker’s Buy a Pair, Give a Pair campaign states that for every pair of glasses customers purchase, it also donates one pair to someone in need across the globe. The company offers options to sell eyewear at affordable prices and provide vision care for those who can’t afford it. Though Warby Parker temporarily suspended the donation program through the COVID-19 pandemic, it instead switched to purchasing personal protective equipment and preventative health supplies for healthcare workers for every pair of glasses sold.
Like BoxLunch, the entire business model of the TOMS shoe company focuses on investing in grassroots campaigns and organizations in local communities. The company invests a third of its profits in what it calls “grassroots good,” organizations led by community members rather than political or corporate leaders. Specifically, the company looks for programs that improve three key issues: promoting mental health awareness, ending gun violence, and increasing access to opportunity.
Is your brand ready to jump into the world of cause marketing? Then it’s time to contact CopyPress and get your plan in place. Our team of strategists and creatives work with you to uncover where your brand values align with your audience. Then we work with you to create content that gets your altruistic message across every time.
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