Cause Marketing: Why and How to Implement Today’s Biggest Marketing Trend

A volunteer helps to build homes as part of a cause marketing campaign.

Companies are investing billions into cause marketing business strategies and industry leaders have devoted unprecedented resources to building brand recognition, loyalty, and trust. Why? Efforts that link an emotional connection to a product, logo, or service can impact the buying decision of customers, even if indirectly, and result in greater profits.

So what exactly is cause marketing? Also called cause-related marketing, cause marketing is a strategic business effort executed by a company that is mutually beneficial for it and the charity it seeks to serve – usually a non-profit organization.  This can include volunteer work, event sponsorship and more.

Download a complete list of cause marketing tactics

Today, the competition to obtain buyers goes far beyond the cost of a good or service. Today’s consumers hold companies and brands to a higher standard than ever before, continuously evaluating an organization’s actions and involvement in its community. It affects the bottom line too, especially among Millennials and younger audiences.

Benefits of Cause Marketing for Businesses


By partnering for the common good, businesses establish and maintain relationships with customers, who in return, will be more loyal to their brand. Studies have shown that a company’s “social purpose” is the most critical factor that influences a buyer’s decision.


Cause-related endeavors – and the businesses executing them – have always been seen as newsworthy and attract the attention of mainstream and online media, and individuals invested in those causes. Cause marketing is seen as a worthwhile strategy by 97% of marketers.

Profitability and Competitiveness

More customers lead to more sales. A positive feeling towards a business can have a substantial impact on a buyer when they make future purchases. In fact, 90% of customers will choose to purchase a product that benefits a cause when given a choice between items of comparable cost and quality.

Employee Morale  

Employees of companies that care about their communities feel better about the organization they work for. More than half of employees surveyed stated that it was important to work in an environment where they can make a difference. This can make a big difference in recruitment efforts, retaining good employees, and maintaining a positive company culture.

Cause Marketing in Action

Growth of Cause Marketing from 2000 - 2017 from CauseGood
Source: CauseGood

In 2016, Subway and Coca-Cola partnered to make clean drinking water more accessible for individuals living in Kenya. During the “Fresh Water 4 All” campaign, which lasted for two months, the sandwich franchise pledged to donate 30 cents for each specially branded bottle of Coca-Cola water purchased to World Vision, a humanitarian organization which supplies clean water internationally. Each donation would be enough to provide clean water to one person for an entire month.

Subway leveraged this cause marketing opportunity to engage its customers, which is far more beneficial than just cutting a check. Through videos, a dedicated website and social media platforms, billboards, in-store signage and more, Subway achieved its maximum pledge contribution of $125,000. By strategically bringing attention to the philanthropic efforts of its brand, the company sold more bottles of water for Coca-Cola, drove more customers through its doors, helped World Vision and the citizens of Kenya, and tied the positive trait of generosity to its food and brand.

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But it isn’t just big corporations taking advantage of cause marketing tactics. Approximately 66% of businesses participate in these efforts as a way as a way to make a positive impact in their community and increase profitability.

Cause Marketing Strategies & Tactics: Five Easy Steps

Sold on incorporating cause marketing into your digital marketing strategy? Great. Here’s how to get started:

Select A Relevant Cause

Making cause marketing strategies effective relies heavily on choosing a charitable organization that not only aligns with the company’s mission and values but also appeals to its customers and employees.

By strategically providing products, services, and other resources to causes that customers and employees already have a connection to, brands can more easily gain buy-in from these parties and create positive associations towards their efforts.

Integrate & Make Efforts Long-Term

Integrating your cause marketing efforts into all aspects of your organization can go a long way in the eyes of customers. A survey revealed that 64% of customers say that donations aren’t enough – they want efforts to be integrated into a company’s business model.

Newman’s Own is a food and beverage company that donates 100% of its profits to charity. This statement, “100% of Profits to Charity,” banners all of its products, so customers know exactly how purchasing a Newman’s Own product will go further than just the jar of sauce or salad dressing in their hands. To date, the company has donated more than $500 million globally.

The more important the cause is to your company – and the more integrated throughout the company – the more genuine your efforts will seem to your customer base, leading to a better reputation overall.

VIDEO: How Warby Parker’s Buy a Pair, Give a Pair Program is Integrated Into its Business Strategy

Excite Customers by Publicizing Campaigns

According to a social impact study by Cone Communications, 50% of buyers examine labels to learn if a brand is socially and economically responsible. Just like Newman’s Own includes their cause on every one of its product labels, advertising and publicizing efforts will make customers aware and get them excited about participating in your campaign. They’ll feel good about buying your product. And, over time, that has a strong impact on brand recognition and brand reputation.

Create Content

Take photos and videos of what you are doing in the community. It doesn’t need to be a big production or staged check presentation, just something that customers can use to visualize what you are doing. Hosting a toy drive during the holidays? Snap a quick photo of the gifts under the office Christmas tree. Or, take a photo with employees of the non-profit organization you are helping. These efforts are small but can add up. If you have more time, resources and budget, plan on a well-thought-out campaign around a strategically chosen partner and you’ll have stronger results.

Share and Publicize

Get the word out about your efforts in as many ways as possible. Send photos, videos, and news releases to local news stations and newspapers. Post on social media platforms and ask your employees to share. Create a page or blog post on your website detailing what you are doing, who you are helping, and how your customers can get involved.

Even though it’s a trend that has gained recent momentum, cause marketing has been a popular tactic for several decades. Companies like American Express, which raised $1.7 million for the Statue of Liberty Restoration Project in the 80s, and the nearly 100 corporations that partner annually with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, have seen extensive benefits from cause marketing.

The foundation of a cause marketing business strategy is simple. When you are authentic and genuine in your efforts to help your community, charities, or those in need, your customers will reward you through increased purchases and long-term brand loyalty. Need ideas to get started? Download our full list below.

Download 20+ cause marketing tactics that you can implement right now!