Cause Marketing: The crossroads of profit and purpose

There is no shortage of social problems in urgent need of innovative solutions and as such cause-based marketing campaigns have proved to be a step towards sensitising people around the world. American Express first used the term, ‘Cause Marketing’ in 1983 to describe its campaign to raise money for the restoration of Statue of Liberty and as a result, raised $1.7 million and increased its card use by 27%. Since then, cause-related ads seem to be everywhere and companies and industry leaders are investing millions of dollars to generate an effective cause related campaign accompanied by unconventional resources.

  Cause marketing strategy is a business effort of a for-profit company marking an intersection of profit and purpose. Cause-based marketing is generally associated with CSR or philanthropy as they generate the same positive effects on the consumer but it is important to note that cause marketing is done with an aim of generating a customer base and earning profits, thus making it central to the firm’s planning and development operations. Philanthropy or CSR, on the other hand, is purely generous charity.

Everyone, from small businesses to global giants, are reaping the rewards of cause marketing. To name a few, Vistara (a joint venture initiated in 2015 between Singapore Airlines and Tata Group) partnered with Salaam Baalak Trust, a non-profit which supports street children of Delhi and Mumbai in India, to fly 12 kids on its first flight ever. The moment was captured in a two-minute film titled, ‘When little feet found their wings with Vistara #FlyTheNewFeeling’. The campaign managed to create a reputation around the brand promise, “#FlyTheNewFeeling” along with a purposeful message. Dove’s ‘Self-Esteem Project’ also aims to empower women to look and feel beautiful by offering body-care products and educational workshops focusing on value of self-worth. The project, now in its eleventh year has reached more than 20 million young people so far. Every time a consumer uses TangoTab app (start-up) at one of its partner restaurants, TangoTab donates the monetary cost of a meal to a local food charity to feed a hungry person. It has fed more than 2 million people in need, to date.

Various statistics have also validated the efficacy of this strategy for longer-term sustainability. Some of them are mentioned below –

  • According to an IEG report, cause sponsorship was a $2 billion plus industry globally in 2017
  • According to Neilsen Research, c.60% of Hispanic consumers in the US are more likely to purchase from brands that support causes that they care about
  • Another survey by Neilsen has found that 56% of consumers are willing to pay more for products from brands and companies that demonstrate a commitment to social value, and 53% would pay more for a product because of a company’s community commitment
  • The 2017 Edelman Earned Brand study reported that 57% of consumers around the world will buy or boycott a brand solely because of its position on a social or political issue, with 30% making these belief-driven purchase decisions more than they did three years ago

Many management gurus and marketing experts have offered advice for developing a successful cause marketing campaign. Given below are the key points required to keep in mind that can exponentially increase your campaign’s impact:

  • Decide on a cause: To develop a social purpose-driven campaign, managers should initially identify a set of social needs to which the brand can make a contribution. Determining the right cause requires evaluating the firm’s practices, as well as its ethos, vision and mission statements. Deciding on a cause may require extra time but choosing a cause that moves the brand and about which the company feels passionate will multiply the growth opportunities. Many corporations entwine themselves with a social cause from the start that it’s inconceivable to see the firms without them. Alleviating the problem of impaired vision, Warby Parker (online American retailer of prescription glasses and sunglasses) started the “Buy a pair, give a pair” campaign and has sold over 4 million pairs of glasses so far.
  • Find an influential partner: Whatever the cause may be, it is crucial to partner with an organisation or a group already familiar with the problem so you don’t spend time working from the scratch and finding a new set of customers for your offering. Aligning the cause with a non-profit that supports the firm’s goals and activities will go a long way. ‘The right partner will have 90% of the conversation ready.” believes Mark Lincoln, Director Lush Cosmetics Australia. You will be able to obtain their expertise and advise in the chosen field; they will help position your brand in all the right ways.
  • Prepare a deliverable approach: HBR’s “Elements of an effective cause marketing Campaign” lists five key elements of a great cause campaign, one of them being a simple and inspiring message to deliver to the society. The message should always come across as honest and transparent as customers want to see the truth about a brand’s efforts and want to know how they support the cause within the campaign. Mahindra group’s new campaign, #LadkiHaathSeNikalJaayegi aims to eliminate the misconceptions around educating the girl child and highlighting the opportunities that result from it by delivering a powerful message through a simple yet persuasive hashtag.
  • Capitalize on social media opportunities: Social media can prove to be a powerful tool when you want to generate awareness about your cause campaign. Expressing your own creativity by posting photos of your efforts on Instagram and advertising events on Facebook can prove beneficial for your campaign. One of the best examples is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge which dominated Facebook and Instagram newsfeeds for months and generated more than $115 million for ALS research. In 2016, FMCG giant P&G’s campaign ‘Unstoppable’ took the social media by a storm, changing the way people perceived the phrase, ‘Like a girl’.  
  • Measure the results: Regularly analyzing the effectiveness of your cause campaigns as it progresses can help you make it better each time you evaluate its performance. You can then reschedule it to run again, improving your performance and keeping the momentum going. In the digital age of big data and analytics, there are many companies which can help measure the effectiveness of your cause marketing campaign. For instance, Hootsuite is a social media management platform which can help track the impact of your media campaigns through comprehensive reporting techniques. There are a number of other companies that can provide variety of services to assess your campaign’s performance

More more detailed research on this topic, send an email to

#SocialCause, #SocialActivism, #SocialImpact, #CauseMarketing, #MakeaDifference, #boostyourbrand





All Comments:

  1. Having read this I believed it was very enlightening. I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this short article together. I once again find myself personally spending way too much time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worth it. Lorie Johnny Dwan

  2. You have brought up a very superb points , regards for the post. Cloe Sloan Angelico

  3. Hi there. I found your blog by the use of Google at the same time as searching for a comparable subject, your website got here up. It seems to be great. I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks to visit then. Carol-Jean Rolph Dode

Your Comment: