We’ve all heard of the TOMS shoe model– where the company donates a pair of shoes for every pair sold. As a consumer, it can be an appealing idea that your consumerism has a positive impact on society and helps those in need. This cause marketing is an effective way to align your brand with your values and support the causes that are close to your heart.
In fact, Brandwatch reports that 80% of consumers want brands to address societal issues. In the same study, 91% said they would switch to a more socially responsible brand if it was similar in price and quality to other options. 67% said they had made a purchase that had a social or environmental benefit in the last 12 months.
With the vast majority of consumers interested in supporting causes through their purchases, you can market your brand to capture this interest by positioning your products and your brand to have a positive impact on society and the environment.
What is Cause Marketing?
CauseMarketing.com defines cause marketing as a “company’s promotional campaign that has the dual purpose of increasing profitability while bettering society.” They also summarize their definition with “cause marketing occurs when a company does well by doing good.”
Brandwatch splits the definition in two, 1) “a collaborative effort between a for-profit brand and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit,” and 2) “marketing programs by for-profit brands based around a social or charitable cause.”
In other words, cause marketing occurs whenever a brand is using a cause within their business model to promote sales. Brands may be making donations, promoting a non-profit, or using manufacturing/production methods that have a positive social or environmental impact. All of these components show consumers what your brand supports and how your brand’s values align with theirs.
Benefits of Cause Marketing
Support A Cause
With cause marketing, your brand is able to support the causes that you love. It allows you to use the structure of your business and your company to make a positive impact on society. Your philanthropy is built into your brand when you set up a product in which a portion of the proceeds are donated, or when you use your social presence to promote a non-profit. It’s a way to feel good while doing good.
Create Positive Brand Sentiment
If your brand has ever dealt with negative press, then you know the advantage of having some positive brand sentiment floating out on the internet. Positive brand sentiment should be something that you strive for in reviews, user-generated content, and in comments made online. If you’re not receiving this praise from your customers, then cause marketing could be a way to recover your brand’s image and build up positivity so that when it comes time to purchase, that positivity can break any tie between you and a competitor.
Add Value to Each Customer’s Order
We’re all trying to add value to each customer’s order. That could be by throwing in a freebie from time to time, including needed parts and accessories with your products, or by offering a promo code for their next purchase. These are all value-adds that can increase the value perception to your customers. Cause marketing allows the customer to get the value of helping society through their purchase. While a subtle addition, it could be something valuable enough to your customer that they make the decision to purchase.
Motivate Your Employees
Goals can be powerful motivators. If your employees are just as passionate about the cause as you are, then they’ll do an exceptional job promoting the cause. It can boost team morale and provide them with the motivation needed to create a phenomenal campaign.
Examples of Cause Marketing
TOMS is, by far, the most successful example of cause marketing in recent years. For every pair of shoes that sells, they donated a pair of shoes to a child in need. This phenomenon triggered a series of copycats who all embraced the “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair,” model.
TOMS was able to build a luxury brand through promoting their cause. The focus of their advertising was on the children in need that they were helping, which served as a motivation to buy the shoes. Through their cause marketing and a plethora of colorful, trendy designs, TOMS was able to build a shoe empire.
Small Business Saturday
American Express started Small Business Saturday in 2010 as a way to highlight small businesses that used American Express’s services. This cause marketing is different from what we normally picture since both small businesses and American Express are for-profit and not necessarily a “cause.” Instead, American Express’s cause is an ideology, in which consumers should support small businesses through their purchases. American Express used consumer’s desire to support local businesses and turned it into an unofficial holiday that also promoted their services.
By showing consumers that American Express supported small businesses through their financial services, American Express was able to garner positive brand sentiment and drive small businesses to use their services. It was a win-win for them, as they were able to position their message of supporting local businesses to gain their target marketing: local businesses.
Lush Cosmetics & SpyCops campaign
This is one of the more controversial examples of cause marketing. Lush Cosmetics changed their window displays to support the SpyCops campaign, which strove to bring awareness and accountability to the actions of undercover police officers.
It was seen by some as an attack on the police, and a boycott of the company was organized. However, the company saw a 14% increase in sales during the period of their campaign. In this case, those who committed to the boycott and Lush’s most loyal customers were not overlapping groups. In fact, Lush’s loyal customers appear to have shopped at the store more during this time in order to show their support.
The lessons to be learned from this example is that you can avoid pitfalls in your cause marketing when you align your values with your customers’ values, and negative press may actually be a good thing. Lush Cosmetics took a much harder stance than most other cause marketing companies and it paid off because their customers agreed with them. The boycott and press attention only served to drive further action from their most loyal customers.
How to Get Started with Cause Marketing
Cause marketing can have a big impact on the way you do business. You are able to put your success in line with your values and promote a cause that is close to your heart. Cause marketing can help you drive sales by using it as a value proposition for your brand, and it can improve morale within your company by allowing employees to support something that they believe in.
Find a Cause
It probably seems obvious, but cause marketing only works if you have the right cause. Your brand’s cause should be something that your customers agree with. If your cause puts you at odds with your target customer, then you’ll need to pick something else. Your cause should be something you have in common with your audience.
Your cause should also be something that you can realistically support. You won’t be able to solve pollution, but you could work to eliminate single-use plastics from your product lines. Pick something with an attainable goal associated. Whether that’s raising a certain amount, donating a percentage of the proceeds, or achieving a 10% reduction in pollution by 2022. The cause should be specific and attainable for your brand.
Your cause also doesn’t have to be limited to a single charitable organization or group. Maybe you share a petition with your audience on social media each week, or your support local businesses by carrying their products in your online store. There are plenty of ways to support a cause. Causes can be anything that your brand and your audience want to support.
Pick a Model
- Donating a Portion – This is the simplest way to create your first cause marketing campaign. For each item sold, you’ll donate a portion of the proceeds to a charitable organization. It’s a nice tax break at the end of the year, and you can advertise this product with your cause marketing.
- Fundraising / Building Awareness – If you don’t have a particular product associated with your cause marketing, that’s okay. You can fundraise and build awareness for a cause that you support. This could include sharing on social media and in your emails, or donating a portion of all sales during a specific time period. Remember, this type of cause marketing works best when your brand is already associated with the cause and your company culture supports the cause, rather than just sharing a fundraiser at regular intervals. Your brand should be authentically sharing about the causes that you and your employees and your customers support.
- Collaborate with a Non-Profit – Teaming up with a non-profit can help build awareness and raise funds. Work with the non-profit to create a co-branded product, have them take over your social accounts for a day, or share a spotlight on the charity through your blog or social media. Non-profits are always looking for partners and your brand can do a lot to help get the word out. You may also be able to sponsor their fundraising galas, provide needed equipment, or share the non-profit’s message with your audience.
- Supporting Other Brand’s Cause Marketing – Many brands are already supporting causes. You can support them by retailing their products and creating a collection in your store that features products that benefit societal and environmental causes. If you’re a home decor site, you could have a collection of recycled home furnishings. If you’re a jewelry company, you could have a collection of bracelets or necklaces that raise money for breast cancer. There’s so many possibilities. Look for wholesale, dropshipping, or partnership opportunities so that you can support other brands who already have a head start on their cause marketing.
Market Your Cause
Yes, the final step of your cause marketing should be obvious, but you have to spread the word! When you launch your cause marketing campaign, you should include it on all of your marketing channels, including social media, email, and your website. If you partnered with another brand or charity, then have them share it too.
When marketing your cause, promote the cause first and the sales second. You should be providing information about the cause or charity, and genuinely try to share about your cause. You are selling your customers on the idea, rather than on any specific product. Take a cue from TOMS shoes, they focused their advertising on helping children in need. By focusing on the cause, they also sold a lot of shoes!
Streamline Your Cause Marketing with Carro’s Brand Partnerships
Carro’s Brand Partnerships can help you support the causes that are dearest to you. Carro’s Brand Partnerships allows you to sell products from other stores on your own site. With Brand Partnerships, you can support female-owned brands by creating a collection on your own site filled with items from female-owned stores. You can support Black-owned businesses by listing their items. Support environmental causes by listing recycled goods, advertise for charitable organizations by listing their merchandise… the possibilities are endless.
Start creating collections of products that support your brand’s values with Carro’s Brand Partnerships.