Cause Marketing: Reconciling business and social issues?

Since the 1970s, the marketing cause has been used more and more by companies.  Initially used by major brands, it has gradually become a key element in the marketing strategy of small businesses and non-profit organizations.  What is the marketing cause and why has it become a must for brands today?


What is cause marketing?

Although there are similarities between them, the marketing cause should not be confused with corporate philanthropy (a company makes a donation to a cause without expecting any profit) or social marketing (a non-profit organization uses marketing to change the behavior of a target audience).

Cause marketing, or social cause marketing, is the cooperative effort between two organizations, one for-profit, the other not-for-profit, for their mutual benefit. As the name implies, cause-marketing involves a brand collaborating with a non-profit organization in a way that generates both profit for the brand and a positive social impact for the partner organization.  This collaboration allows companies to reconcile the goal of making a profit with the desire to contribute to the betterment of society.


Why more and more brands are using the marketing cause

“84% of consumers say they actively seek out products that are responsible, and 90% of consumers say they would boycott a company with irresponsible or deceptive practices.”

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According to one report, 91% of global consumers expect the companies whose products they buy to make more than just profit. They also expect them to address social and environmental issues.  For many consumers, a “good” product is synonymous with other values such as “respect,” “equality” and “fair” treatment of workers.

84% of consumers indicate that they actively seek out products that are responsible, and 90% of consumers say they would boycott a company with irresponsible or deceptive practices. For consumers, companies must do good and be good.

And this is where the marketing cause comes in. It allows brands to align themselves with a cause and have a positive social impact while creating a profit for themselves. As a result, these brands increase their social value and find new and meaningful ways to connect with their consumers and the general public.

The importance of partnership in cause marketing

Pink KFC-KOMEN bucketsThis is the true story of the mismatched partnership of KFC and Susan G. Komen for the Cure (Komen). The fast-food giant launched the Buckets for the Cure campaign and announced that for every pink bucket purchased by franchise operators, $0.50 would be donated to Komen. He pledged a generous donation to a worthy cause.

However, one important detail seemed to have escaped the vigilance of the marketing experts at KFC and Komen: the authenticity of the partnership. On the one hand, Komen’s stated mission is to fight breast cancer through research and community action. On the other hand, KFC is known worldwide for its fried chicken. Fried foods have been shown to contribute to obesity, which in turn increases the risk of breast cancer. So the choice to collaborate was not the best one. Komen’s spokesperson responded to criticism that the partnership was based on KFC’s healthy options, such as grilled chicken with vegetables. But this explanation did not appease the discontent of Komen’s supporters, and the foundation received strong public opposition. The public also accused KFC of using Komen’s cause to get a high profile.

Moral of the story: choose a cause related to your company’s products or services. Similarly, an NGO will take care to choose a brand whose products and services and/or values are consistent with what it stands for. A mismatched partnership can cause serious damage to a brand’s image.

Is cause marketing right for your brand?

People around a table talking

Consumer trends show that people around the world expect more from brands than from selling products. They want to make sure that you care about more than just profit, and they want to see that commitment in action. Basically, actions speak louder than words.

So you can ask your team a few questions:

  • What are we interested in?
  • Where and how can we have a positive influence?
  • What are the causes that reflect our values?

Is your business small and are you thinking about the possible cost? Rest assured that collaborating with a cause does not necessarily require a big-budget campaign. There are dozens of creative ways to support a cause without squandering your marketing budget. Brainstorming with your team and the non-profit organization of your choice is essential to find solutions that will mutually benefit your brand and their cause.

Have you ever been involved in a marketing cause? Share this article and leave us a comment on your experience on our social networks. It could inspire someone else!


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