Chapter 16: Cause Marketing

Posted on June 11, 2020 | Updated on April 6, 2023

Most people start a company because they have a passion for their fellow human, an industry or some other interest. Cause marketing taps into the core of why we do what we do. This marketing model combines the best of business growth with efforts to help the world be a better place. In Edelman’s 2022 Trust Barometer report, 52% of consumers want companies to address climate change and 49% want them to look at social inequality. People pay attention to the nonprofit organizations that companies sponsor.

You can attract a lot of positive press while improving the world. The key is finding something you care about, though. One example of a brand focused on cause marketing is Bombas Socks. For every pair purchased, they donate a pair to a homeless shelter. The founders discovered the homeless community was always in need of socks, which drove them to develop their current model. They’ve donated more than 30 million pairs since starting their mission.

Benefits of Cause Marketing

There are many benefits to cause marketing that you should be aware of as you approach this promotional method. Here are a few:

  • Help others. It might sound like a simple thing, but the good feelings you get from helping someone else are priceless. Both you and your employees will feel good.
  • Increase brand loyalty. People who believe in what you’re doing develop a commitment to what drives you and continue to buy from you.
  • Boost employee job satisfaction. When people feel they are part of something bigger, they feel content on the job. You’ll keep well-trained employees longer.
  • Gain free positive press. While you shouldn’t embrace a cause just for free promotion, when you do big things, the media will cover it. You’ll gain valuable word-of-mouth marketing without intentionally seeking it out.
  • Establish community goodwill. Locals will come to rely on your company, improving your brand reputation.
  • Stand out from competitors. Your charities are unique to you. What you focus on differentiates you from other brands in your industry.
  • Team up with nonprofits. There are many advantages to working with organizations in your area. Collaborating helps the charity, and they can tell their patrons about your efforts. Plus, they can show you unique ways to promote your business.

How Does Cause Marketing Work?

Understand that cause marketing is different from philanthropic efforts. It is more of a relationship between the nonprofit charity and for-profit business. With philanthropy, you donate a check to the local baseball little league team so they can go to an out-of-town game. With cause marketing, you give them T-shirts to wear and put your name on them to gain exposure among their fans. In actuality, cause marketing is much more complicated than sponsoring a youth team, though. It is part of your overall business methods. Your cause ties to what you do, and what you do binds to your company’s purpose. It becomes part of your mission statement. When your values align with your customers’, you embrace the same causes. Then, they become loyal to your goals.

Who Uses Cause Marketing

According to Accelerist’s 2020 Trend Report, corporations in the United States give five times as much to charity as individuals do. Some examples of companies using cause marketing in smart ways include:

  • TOMS: TOMS gives shoes to poor people around the world. For every sale, they donate one. They’ve given out more than 100 million pairs of shoes. They also give $1 for every $3 they make.
  • Cuddle + Kind: This company donates 10 meals to people in need for every stuffed toy they sell. They provide food from their profits and hire people in developing countries to hand-make their toys. Doing this offers valuable opportunities to people who otherwise wouldn’t have any.
  • BrewDog: This brewery shifted gears when the coronavirus struck the U.S. and there was a shortage of hand sanitizer. They took on the task of learning how to make sanitizer and made and shipped more than 100,000 bottles in recent weeks.

There are thousands of examples of cause marketing, but the thing tying them together is the act of wanting to help a cause. Any type of business can adopt a charity and make a difference.

Tips for Implementing Purpose-Based Marketing

You can take several steps to start your journey with cause marketing. Above all else, be authentic. People see right through those who are only doing something for their benefit rather than the desire to help. Here are some tips for starting out:

1. Find a Cause You and Your Employees Love

If you don’t yet have a charity in mind, brainstorm with your employees. The best kinds of cause marketing happen when the entire company gets excited about the efforts. Ideally, your employees will have paid time to help them volunteer for the cause. You can donate a portion of your profits and work alongside the nonprofit to help them thrive. You aren’t participating in a one-time effort, but something that builds over time. Make sure whatever you embrace, you can support it for years.

2. Look for Charities That Align With What You Do

Think about what types of causes match up to what you already do. For example, if you sell skincare, can you team up with a skin cancer organization to promote skin health? If you run a restaurant, maybe you want to help local kids not go hungry in the summer when school’s out. What groups are already helping with the issue, and how can you support them? Narrow the list to several organizations in your area, in order of preference.

3. Sit Down With the Executive Director

Approach the number one choice on your list and ask to speak to the leader of the nonprofit. Not every charity will want to team up. They may already have other partnerships or concerns. Once you find one excited about working with you, find out how you can best help them. In addition to financial support, they may need help with marketing, securing volunteers to serve at their place of business or accomplishing any other needs.

4. Plan Joint Promotions

Once you’ve established the relationship, figure out the best way to promote one another. They might announce in their newsletter or on social media that you’ve joined the cause. Doing this puts your brand’s name in front of their subscribers. You can do the same and invite your customers to join your efforts. You can also plan campaigns, such as encouraging followers on both lists to post a photo to social media with a specific hashtag. You’ll want to create a memorable message that lets people know why you’re supporting the idea. Make sure it also puts your company name at the forefront. 

Know Your Purpose

At the core of cause marketing is knowing who you are as a brand and a human. What things do you care about, and why? Don’t attempt purpose-based marketing until you have a firm grasp of what drives you. Otherwise, you’ll come across as inauthentic and only interested in profit. It’s better to take some time choosing a cause so you can throw your full support behind its efforts. If you have zeal, your employees will follow. So will the rest of the community you serve, including your customers. 

CHAPTER 15: Undercover Marketing 


The Small Business Marketing Guide: Introduction

Chapter 1: Successful Viral Marketing Campaigns
Chapter 2: Influencer Marketing
Chapter 3: Conversational Marketing
Chapter 4: CMS Marketing
Chapter 5: Brand Marketing
Chapter 6: Scarcity Marketing
Chapter 7: Transactional Marketing
Chapter 8: FOMO Marketing
Chapter 9: Neuromarketing
Chapter 10: Close Range Marketing
Chapter 11: Guerrilla Marketing
Chapter 12: Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Chapter 13: Target Marketing
Chapter 14: Diversity Marketing
Chapter 15: Undercover Marketing
Chapter 16: Cause Marketing


About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at

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