How To Use Cause Marketing Without Causing Chaos

Environmental Research reports that Cause Marketing can Make a Difference which is good news for social entrepreneurs. A recent survey conducted on consumer packaged goods found that, yes, consumers do prefer and purchase products associated with a charity or cause.

74% increase in actual purchase for a shampoo brand when associated with a cause

(47% of participants who saw the cause-related message chose the brand while only 27% of those who saw the generic corporate advertisement chose the brand)

28% increase in actual purchase for a toothpaste brand when associated with a cause

Triple bottom line entrepreneurs, of course, already know that, or at least have hoped that their efforts to give back will make a difference in sales. But, just giving back isn’t always enough.

Qualitative consumer responses showed that the issue, the nonprofit and the inherent nature of products were key factors in making cause-related purchasing decisions and helped explain why movement in (some) categories was not significant.

In other words, choose well and choose wisely, not only in the non-profit you plan to support, but in how you promote your connection and how you market your product.

Social entrepreneurs often start with a cause and then develop a product. Or, alternately, develop a product and go about looking for a way to give back and support a charity as an integral part of their mission plan.

As a marketer who has been involved with cause related marketing as far back as the late 80s, I’ve seen promotions involving charities provide both a big sales bump and a nonexistent one. To benefit both company and non-profit…a big one is preferred. This is where execution comes in. It’s not enough to give back. Promotions and programs associating your product with a non-profit, need to be as carefully planned out as any marketing effort.

To that end, here are a few tips:

1. Ensure that the non-profit with which you associate has some meaning to your target market. For example, supporting breast cancer generally appeals to women over 30 and is most likely to be effective when associated with personal care products.

2. Consider your growth projections. It’s great to develop a relationship with local charities, but as your company grows and expands beyond your hometown, consider how you’ll hook up with similar charities across the country and how you’ll manage the logistics involved.

3. Promote your association effectively. Developing promotions supported with POP, advertising and/or P.R. is a given, but there are standard return rates and projected sales increases associated with many different types of promotions. Make you sure you research and understand the expected return for different types of promotions in your category. It’s not rocket science, but it is research intensive.

The more strategic your cause-related marketing, the better the results you’ll achieve for both your company and your non-profit partner.

About the Author

Hear Maryanne speak on Social Media for Socially Conscious Brands at Expo East on September 27th! Maryanne Conlin is CPG brand marketer and digital marketing expert, CEO of RedRopes Digital and Partner Digital Strategy, 4GreenPs. A Shorty Award winner for best Green Content on Twitter, she was a member of the IAA team that won the Green Award in 2010 and most recently was a finalist for the PRSA - Los Angeles PRISM awards for social media. She and her team focus on providing strategic marketing direction, custom content for web, mobile and social platforms, social media community management and online promotions and digital advertising solutions for companies in the green, food and Hispanic space. Follow her on Twitter @maryanneconlin
  • Thanks for the post.

    Businesses in the market for cause marketing will always find plenty of nonprofits wanting to partner with them, anywhere, anytime. The key is to find an organization that thinks beyond its current budget or immediate revenue shortfall. Just like businesses that will follow this post’s advice, nonprofit partners should also think of their cause-marketing partnership in strategic terms.

    Cause marketing is not a campaign, it’s a strategic partnership that needs to be based on equality and aim for the long-haul.

  • This is actually interesting timing for this subject.

    Because I think cause marketing can work, and because of the slow down in the US economy and the fact that marketing for non-profits normally takes a hit at times like this, we are now offering discounts of 20%-30% on our products to 501(c)3s, NGOs, charities, schools and other civic organization.

    See more details at

  • Glad you all have found the information from our 2008 Cone/Duke University Behavioral Cause Study useful.

    We also found that despite the economic downturn, 78% of Americans think companies should contribute the same or more to causes and nonprofit organizations.

    You can download the full studies here:

  • Pingback: My Natural Furniture » Blog Archive » The Standby Problem: How a Spanish Designed Device Could Solve It()

  • Pingback: This week’s most helpful posts, 43/08 | SUSTAINABLE MARKETING BLOG()