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May 20, 2021

What is Cause Marketing - and the Brands That Nailed It

by Helen Jackson
People holding signs protesting for a cause

It’s not just about competing on product or price anymore; consumers expect more from brands. They want a brand that stands for something — a brand with a moral compass that cares about causes close to their own hearts. Welcome to cause marketing.

What’s in it for brands? The benefits go further than just feeling good, it increases your brand awareness and revenue — 71% of millennials will pay more for a product if they know some of the proceeds go to charity. 71% — that’s a lot.

Cause marketing or cause-related marketing presents a real opportunity for brands to simultaneously engage their audience, help the community, and increase sales. What’s not to like?

Read on to learn more about cause marketing and how to create a cause marketing campaign that delivers results.

What is Cause Marketing?

Cause marketing sits under ‘corporate social responsibility (CSR) and serves as a dual-purpose campaign. It’s a mutually beneficial strategy for both the not-for-profit and brand; the strategy is devised to increase attention to a particular cause while increasing brand profits.

What’s deemed acceptable by consumers as ‘CSR’ has changed. Historically, CSR was seen as hosting a charitable event to tick a box, a dress-down day, or a bake sale raising money for local charities. But as we’ve said already, consumers expect more. They expect brands to take a stance on issues affecting the world — they’re belief-driven consumers. Cause marketing can help brands engage the belief-driven consumer while simultaneously increasing sales, and supporting a cause people care about.

What Are the Benefits of Cause Marketing for a Brand?

Two-thirds of consumers now buy on belief, and not only are consumers willing to spend more with brands that are ethically and socially responsible, but they’ll also spread the word about your brand. According to a global survey, 61% of consumers said they would promote a brand’s products or services if there is a good cause behind them.

So you’re not just engaging and converting consumers in your immediate vicinity, you’re able to reach the people they know and care about through recommendations.

Other benefits of cause marketing include:

Improves customer loyalty

It’s well-documented that attracting new customers takes longer and costs more money than retaining existing customers. Considering that today’s consumers are belief-driven, it’s in your best interest to focus on engaging your existing customers through supporting a cause they believe in.

Research conducted by David Servera-Francés found that investment in CSR policies increases consumer value, satisfaction, and loyalty to the company. So, not only will implementing a cause marketing strategy help you build a brand connection consumers crave, but it will help you achieve customer loyalty, too.

Differentiates your brand

In a competitive marketplace, you can only compete so much on product and pricing. According to a 2020 Deloitte report, “purpose-oriented companies have higher productivity and growth rates while traditional trends might dominate purchasing behavior, new opportunities exist to connect with customers through purpose.”

So while competing companies rely on traditional trends to get their brand seen and heard, there’s scope to make a stand, supporting a cause you and your audience believe in; differentiating your brand for the better.

Improves employee satisfaction

As reported by Causely, 6 out of 10 millennials say that a "sense of purpose is part of the reason they chose to work for their current employer." Millennials in particular care about more than the paycheck it seems, which is crucial for your brand to remember — it’s not always about direct profit and customer engagement, don’t discount the impact supporting a great cause can have on attracting top-tier talent and workforce retention (which inevitably saves you recruitment fees in the long run).

An Example of Cause Marketing Gone Wrong

Just as cause marketing can achieve some great results, you’ve guessed it; it can cause widespread damage to your brand, too. The slightest audience misjudgment and you’re under fire — and we all know how fast it can spread online.

Let’s take a quick look at a recent marketing campaign by THIS. THIS is a vegan food company advocating for animals’ rights and promoting the benefits of a vegan lifestyle, not just for the consumers but for the planet, too. Its 2021 April Fools joke didn’t land well with some of their target audience.

The joke showed a social media exec ‘exposing’ the brand’s food as being lab-grown and not vegan. The video includes a toy chicken and bra inserts posing as chicken fillets. THIS first shared the video of the exec taking viewers on a ‘factory tour’ where the meat was ‘grown’, stating they use live chicken DNA to grow the meat on-site.

While many enjoyed the joke, there was an immediate uproar from a handful of the vegan community, as you can see from the Instagram comments below:

They say all PR is good PR, but only time will tell if that’s true with this particular brand campaign. You can see how quickly consumers with strong beliefs call out brands who seemingly step slightly out of line with their ethical and social values.

How to Create a Cause Marketing Campaign

It’s important you don’t rush into a cause marketing strategy or campaign — supporting any not-for-profit that comes your way isn’t the best decision to make; it’s something that requires careful consideration. You need to analyze what causes matter to your audience if it’s going to have the desired impact.

With that in mind, how can you create a cause marketing strategy?

Giving money to the cause just won’t cut it

Money’s great, and charities and not-for-profits can benefit significantly from it, but for your cause marketing campaign to have umph, you need to do more than that. Cause marketing statistics show 64% of consumers believe it is no longer enough for corporations to give money. Almost anyone can throw money at the problem, but it doesn’t show you deeply care about the cause.

Pick your cause deliberately

If you find a cause related to your product or service, the more deliberate your strategy will be. You need to care about the cause you’re supporting (and your staff does, too); otherwise, the campaign can fall flat when everyone lacks enthusiasm. Consider a suggestion box to collate all staff ideas, this can help include everyone in the process, and you’re likely to get some great ideas, too.

Focus on simple messaging

We’re constantly chased by remarketing ads and batting away pop-ups, so the more simple your campaign messaging, the more likely it’ll be remembered. When crafting a cause marketing campaign, you need maximum impact for your revenue and for the cause you’re supporting.

It was widely reported that the average attention span of users had dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds, and whether those numbers stack up are neither here nor there (there’s a bit of debate around this topic!), because the truth is, there is more for us to be distracted by now. Users will only wait a mere three seconds for a page to load before bouncing back to find an alternative page!

So hone your messaging and make it count.

Don’t concentrate on monetary gain

Consumers are savvy — they’ll see right through your efforts if they’re shallow, for example, if there’s an obvious focus on revenue. For cause marketing to work beautifully, you need to put money to the back of your mind, focus on the cause at hand.

First impressions of your brand matter — it only takes a customer between 17 and 50 milliseconds to form an opinion. Don’t waste this minuscule window of opportunity — make a show-stopping first impression.

3 Best Examples of Cause Marketing

Sometimes you need a little inspiration, so that’s what we’re giving you. Here are three brands doing cause-related marketing the right way.

TOMS

TOMS is a footwear brand that has always been consistent with its mission since working in partnership with children’s charity Save The Children in 2011 — their mission? “for every pair of TOMS shoes purchased online or at retail, the company will provide a pair to a child in need. One for One.”

Source

Their One for One™ business model means their consumers feel included and part of the solution. Ypulse puts it perfectly: “TOMS has won millennials over by turning a product into a movement, and positioning themselves as a mere “facilitator” of consumers’ own social good efforts.”

And because this isn’t a one-off campaign, they’re known for the good they do. When millennials were asked what brand does the most good, TOMS was at the top of the ranking. To date, TOMS has donated over 1 million shoes to support this cause.

If you’re consistent with your mission, you get recognized for it.

Fanpage

Fanpage, an Italian independent newspaper, created a campaign to raise awareness of domestic violence. Over a five-year period, 538,000 women in Italy were the victims of physical or sexual abuse by their partners. It’s clearly an important topic that resonates around the world, so Fanpage started a dialogue around this topic affecting millions by creating a thought-provoking video. They published a video on Facebook in 2015, which quickly went viral and has now been watched over 44 million times.

The video features young boys being asked to slap a young girl they’ve just met, and their responses are emotive and confronting.

Your audience expects you to stand for something and make a difference, and Fanpage definitely delivered that.

LADbible

Usually a light-hearted, social entertainment site, LADbible took a stand against plastic in the ocean by teaming up with the charity Plastic Oceans back in 2017. The social giant — who has 10 million Instagram followers and over 37 million Facebook followers — used their platform to draw attention to the plastics crisis happening right now. With particular attention to the ‘trash island’ in the Pacific Ocean that was the size of France.

The campaign caught the eye of the world-renowned broadcaster, David Attenborough and facilitated a much-needed conversation around plastic usage.

Final Thoughts

Authenticity is one of the main components of a successful cause marketing strategy, and you can see this from the brand examples we’ve used. They’ve picked causes that people care deeply about — it’s hard not to like a brand that genuinely cares about making a difference to the local or global communities surrounding them.

So go out there and make a difference, be mindful of the cause you back, and focus solely on the cause, not revenue. The revenue will come.

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