October 23, 2012 / by Teresa Dankowski

Photo courtesy of eikosi via flickr

We live in a time where the herringbone flats you buy from Toms Shoes supply a pair to a child in need. Your relationship with a Coca-Cola can seems to magically restore national parks, alleviate poverty and promote recycling. The dog food, cosmetics, cereal and outdoor gear you purchase contribute to conservation and sustainability, better schools and communities, and… sometimes even Wilco gets involved?

If it seems like cause- or purpose-based marketing is everywhere, you wouldn’t be wrong. Social responsibility is not a new concept, but it’s certainly booming. According to Edelman’s 2012 goodpurpose study, 72 percent of customers would recommend a brand that supports a “good cause” over one that doesn’t. It’s estimated 47 percent of consumers buy a cause-supporting brand every month and 86 percent of consumers believe a company needs to place equal weight on business interests as they do societal interests.

The question “Is cause marketing good for my business?” has evolved to “Can my business afford to ignore cause marketing?” Before you jump head-first into redeemable box tops or awareness bracelets, here are four can’t-ignore cause marketing tips to show your aim is true.

Pick a cause that reflects your company’s culture and values. Entrepreneur points out that affiliating with a nonprofit related to your products or aligning with an organization employees and customers care about will keep your team motivated and deliver the message to a receptive audience. Figure out what you stand for—and, if your heart’s not in it, don’t bother. Personal care giant Procter & Gamble is a great practitioner of helping related causes, focusing on global health initiatives, aiding with disaster relief and helping disadvantaged youth.

Be authentic when deciding to partner with a cause. Consumers can easily spot a fraud or detect when a brand is jumping on a bandwagon. Consider the pink apparel and accessories saturating the market right now. While many brands use pinkness to dutifully contribute proceeds to breast cancer awareness, good intentions are not immune to the concept of “pinkwashing”. Many activists and survivors believe partnerships as high-profile as the NFL and the American Cancer Society exploit the cause for easy profit.

Don’t pick a platform that is inflammatory or divisive. Whatever your political or fast-food leanings during the Chicken Sandwich War, don’t pull a Chick-fil-A. Though it may be hard to tell how Chick-fil-A speaking out against gay marriage will affect long-term profits, many experts agree the company’s inadvertent cause marketing may have underestimated brand loyalty and the power of social media, and the controversy wasn’t worth the risk. Perhaps feeling similarly, Chick-fil-A released a statement saying they would leave policy to politicians.

Launch a campaign that calls people to action. Whether motivating customers to accept a challenge, make a donation, or participate in an event, engagement is key. Bank behemoth JPMorgan Chase has Chase Community Giving, letting fans decide which organizations should receive money, and encouraging voters and followers to share philanthropic experiences, learn about new causes, and maintain lifelong charity. In this way, brand becomes an extension of behavior and belief.

Do you have a cause- or purpose-based marketing tip to share? What helps your company “do good”?


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About Teresa Dankowski

Teresa Dankowski is a content marketing manager at Cision and covers best practices in marketing, PR and social media. She enjoys printmaking, wine, TV and dominating at rec league softball.