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How to Create an Effective Cause Marketing Strategy

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Consumers don’t just care about quality products anymore. They increasingly expect to see social responsibility from the businesses they work with. They want to see you supporting an important cause.

But “cause marketing” can be tricky. How can you find a cause worth investing in? And how can you make sure it resonates with your customers while fitting with your brand values?

I’m going to help you answer those questions in this article. I’m going to cover what cause marketing is, how it can benefit your brand, and how to create your own effective cause marketing strategy.

What is cause marketing?

Cause marketing is a for-profit business championing (or promoting) a social or environmental issue with the goal of increasing profits while improving the issue.

You might have noticed the rise in the number of brands involved with promoting social causes. Dove created its Real Beauty campaign to fight stigmas and improve women’s self-esteem. Coca-Cola partnered with the WWF to conserve and improve freshwater resources.

Both strategies help make the world a better place, and both are helping their companies increase revenue.

That’s because consumers tend to be more loyal to businesses whose values align with their own. In fact, according to a 2017 Cone Study, 87% of consumers will purchase a product because a company advocates for an issue they care about.

According to cause marketing thought leader Megan Strand of Engage for Good, cause marketing is a means to demonstrate corporate values to consumers in a way that’s both meaningful and engaging.

The simplest cause marketing tactic is the “portion of purchase,” where a business donates a particular amount for every product sold.

5 Cause Marketing Benefits You’ll Love

Most people believe companies have an obligation to take action to improve social and environmental issues, even if those issues aren’t directly relevant to the business.

In fact, 64% of consumers said they would purchase a product based on a company’s commitment to take a stand on social issues. But there are many other benefits to cause marketing, including these five.

1. Cause marketing is proven to increase company sales.

It’s a win-win when you can support a cause and boost sales. That’s exactly what Starbucks was able to do when they collaborated with RED to raise money for the Global Fund to fight AIDS.

By donating 10 cents for every red cup sold, the company has been able to raise over $14 million to help finance HIV/AIDS prevention, education, and treatment programs.

As an added bonus, the seasonal campaign doubled as a great social media promotion. In the first 48 hours after the red cups were released, a photo of it was posted on Instagram every 14 seconds.

2. Cause marketers gain customers more easily.

Nearly two-thirds of consumers say they would purchase a product from a company if the company stands for an issue they care about. This means that - all else being equal - consumers will choose a brand that supports a cause over one that doesn’t.

This can be especially powerful if there are several other companies or brands who offer similar products or services. You may not have a completely superior product or service, but you can convert customers by supporting a cause they care about.

3. Causes position your brand above the rest.

64% of shoppers say simply giving money away isn’t enough. They want businesses to integrate social impact directly into their business models. Something TOMS has proven to be sustainable.

TOMS’ “one for one” commitment – donating a pair of shoes for every pair bought from them – has made them a standard for cause marketing. According to Business Today, a young adult looking for an affordable yet cool pair of shoes would feel better knowing that his purchase helped get a child in need a free shoe.

Having this cause strategy has helped TOMS position their brand as a go-to option, particularly for those more socially conscious.

PC: Causely

4. Cause marketing inspires customer loyalty and trust.

People tend to stay loyal to brands that advocate for causes they believe in. According to Founder Blake Mycoskie, TOMS built giving away free shoes into their cost structure, because they wanted customers to feel like they’re part of something more than just a transaction.

And because an increasing number of people understand what the impact of their purchases are on the world, brands like TOMS are able to form more loyal customers and attract similar ones. This makes the investment into cause marketing well worth it.

5. Cause marketing creates employee fulfilment.

It’s not just customers who are inspired when your brand gets involved. Cause marketing can have a massive impact on your hiring and retention.

According to a Deloitte survey, six out of 10 millennials say a sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose to work for their current employers. Another study found that 72% of students and 53% of the current workforce polled believe that having a job where they can make an impact is essential to their happiness.

According to CEO Cristian Renella, South American financial services company el Mejor Trato saw their employee retention improve by 14.3% when they focused on increasing the vocational skills of underprivileged children. Renella added that their team became stronger by sharing such important moments. It also led to an overall improvement in the company’s work culture.

4 Steps to Create a Cause Marketing Strategy

1. Determine what you want to achieve and choose a related cause.

It's always best to start by identifying goals. But be it increased brand awareness or customer acquisition, an integral element of cause marketing is making sure that your cause fits your brand.

For example, P&G’s skin care line Olay partnered with the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery to inspire women to protect their skin from the sun. The campaign attracted over 9,000 individuals to free skin cancer screenings.

And you don’t need to be a massive conglomerate like P&G to make a difference. In the Philippines, bottled water company Hope donates 100% of profits to build public classrooms. To date, it has built 78 classrooms, impacting 13,940 students.

2. Inspire your employees and customers to get involved.

Social responsibility should go beyond trending hashtags and viral content. And this is what outdoor apparel company Patagonia has committed their organization to — being involved.

Apart from donating at least 1% of their sales to different grassroots organizations across the world, they dedicate time and services to various environmental conservation projects.

They even go so far as to encourage consumers not to buy one of their jackets – emphasizing the need to buy only what you need and to recycle what you can in order to decrease the environmental footprint.

This campaign shows Patagonia cares more about its cause than its profits, and consumers have rallied around that commitment.

PC: Causely

3. Contribute more than dollars.

While Patagonia’s cause marketing efforts have resulted in over $10 million donated to environmental charities, their support goes beyond financial support. Just by the type of content they produce, you can sense their dedication to saving the planet.

They constantly emphasize the need to protect wild places and wildlife, reduce carbon emissions, and ensure the US stays committed to the goals on climate change. Even little things like showing customers how to repair their jacket instead of buying a new one helps.

PC: Causely

4. Mount a marketing campaign.

The essence of cause marketing is spurring an audience to take action. Its success rides on reaching and persuading a target group to get involved, while also raising awareness and creating loyalty for your business.

An example of this is State Farm’s “50 Million Pound Challenge” – a campaign designed to educate African-Americans about the risks associated with being overweight. They created a website to provide ongoing advice and support has helped thousands of people lose weight.

If you want to take a similar approach, you can create an app or partner with a local organization to get a campaign going.

Now what?

Cause marketing has become almost essential in building brand recognition. But to really have a sustainable and authentic cause marketing strategy, you have to embed the spirit of supporting worthy causes into your business model. This makes it easier to establish business objectives that justify cause marketing efforts.

Your efforts need to be sustainable to make a difference. Find out what you really want to achieve, what you truly believe in, and align it with a cause marketing strategy you can commit to.

Related: 5 Successful Strategies to Lead Your Small Business Effectively