What is Cause Marketing?

Cause marketing, or cause-related marketing, is a business practice in which a profit-making organization helps nonprofits and worthwhile charities.

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We live in an age in which big businesses and corporations feel pressure to uphold a certain level of social responsibility, rightfully so. These large enterprises have built such successful empires. They choose to give back and use their resources for societal good—this is where cause marketing comes into play. Cause marketing, or cause-related marketing, is a business practice in which a profit-making organization helps nonprofits and worthwhile charities. The business decides to help through collaborating with them in the form of a partnership, or basing their brand around that specific cause and engaging with it on their platform.

Marriot Corporation became a leader in cause marketing in 1976, through its partnership with the March of Dimes, an organization fighting for prevention of birth defects in babies. While promoting its family entertainment complex in Santa Clara, California, Marriot raised a significant amount of money for the March of Dimes. Businesses quickly followed suit after noticing the tremendous impact the project had.

Countless resources will demonstrate that the vast majority of consumers are more likely to switch to a brand that supports a good cause, both socially and monetarily. A brand that promotes social responsibility builds trust and indicates to their consumers that they are ethical and community-driven. Cause marketing is a win-win: your brand makes the world a better place AND makes a profit while gaining positive perceptions. But before you decide to embark on a partnership with or a campaign revolving around a particular organization, be sure to genuinely consider your motives and plan strategically:

1. Choose wisely.

When we say “choose wisely,” we refer to the organization you choose to partner with or represent in your campaigns. Like any project, if the passion isn’t there, the execution won’t be either. The lack of authenticity will directly reflect in the work. Consumers aren’t dumb; they can see right through fake and lack of legitimacy. When choosing the nonprofit organization, conduct thorough research to know exactly what you’re getting into and be sure that you align with all of its beliefs.

2. Choose wisely, but make it relevant.

If your brand is, for instance, a flower company, you do not have to limit yourself to charities surrounding floristry. However, your partnership mustn’t be entirely random. Try to find ways to interrelate your brand with the nonprofit of your choosing, as to show correlation and deliberate intention with that choice. This will contribute to your authenticity, as well. 

3. Giving money isn’t enough.

Although generous donations of money are considerable assistance to charitable organizations, one of the most critical components of such a campaign is awareness. When companies simply write a check and move on, it seems careless, and like it was all a PR stunt formed out of materialism. If you are giving an organization help and attention, be sure to use your brand’s platforms to its advantage. Social and earned media can be incredibly useful in these circumstances, especially when encouraging user-generated content, which can further that awareness and reach even more people. 

4. Work WITH the nonprofit.

Keep in constant contact with the organization you are working with, just like an advertising agency does with its client. It’s essential to make sure that the relationship campaign meets all of its goals and needs, maximizing its impact, and implementing the best possible strategies. That organization deserves to know how it is being represented by your brand.

Since Marriot, we’ve seen several cause marketing campaigns unfold. The Economist once held a Pride and Prejudice event in light of LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion. It was a 24-hour long conference, hosted in New York City, Hong Kong, and London, and showcased vital leaders in business and politics speaking out about a variety of relevant topics. The Economist utilized Brandwatch Vizia to amplify conversations online so that people who couldn’t attend the conferences still had the opportunity to participate. This campaign gathered 145,000 social media interactions and reached 17 million users.

For some time, General Mills gave its Yoplait yogurt pink lids to promote breast cancer awareness through the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The campaign, dubbed “Save Lids for Lives,” donated 10 cents for every lid, and wound up accumulating more than $25 million for the foundation.

It’s certainly a privilege to give back, and we hope to witness cause marketing on an even grander scale in the future.


Grova Creative is a minority and veteran-owned agency headquartered in Tallahassee, Florida, and works with clients all across the United States. If you are a business or organization seeking help with advertising, marketing, branding, messaging, marketing, strategy, website development, or other creative assets, email Grova Creative at [email protected] or visit grova.com.

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