Cause marketing refers to marketing that involves a partnership between a business and a non-profit organization. It is marketing done by a for-profit business that seeks to both increase profits and to better society in accordance with corporate social responsibility, such as by including activist messages in advertising. The principles of these marketing refer to aligning a brand with a cause to produce profitable and societal benefits for both parties. Typically, the business ties its marketing strategy to the fundraising needs of a charitable cause for the benefit of both parties.
This marketing is especially well-suited to companies that market their goods directly to consumers. A similar phrase, cause-related marketing, usually refers to a subset of cause marketing that involves the cooperative efforts of a for-profit business and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit. Cause-related marketing managers are responsible for securing and managing marketing and brand partnerships. They are responsible for providing continued support for their brand partners as the relationship enhances both organizations’ financial success and credibility. A high-profile form of these marketing occurs at checkout counters when customers are asked to support a cause with a charitable donation. Cause-related marketing goes beyond one-time charitable donations and can involve active participation on the part of the business.
Benefits and concerns
The purpose is to increase exposure and awareness for both the for-profit business and the non-profit organization. The possible benefits of this marketing for nonprofit organizations include an increased ability to promote the nonprofit organization’s cause via the greater financial resources of a business, and an increased ability to reach possible supporters through a company’s customer base. Companies that engage in cause-related marketing do it in part because they believe it helps them gain and retain customers. The possible benefits of this marketing for businesses include positive public relations, improved customer relations, additional marketing opportunities, and making more money. When cause marketing is effective, some of the benefits you can expect include:
- An increase in brand loyalty
- A boost in employee morale
- An increase in sales
- Positive press coverage and company reviews
- Differentiation from the competition
With that said, there are some concerns related to this marketing. The issue of trust has emerged as central to the potential for the impact of this marketing. While cause marketing revolves around benefiting a charitable cause, it’s not without disadvantages. One major disadvantage can occur if public perception of the relationship sours. If a consumer doesn’t trust the business that is behind the marketing campaign, it can be seen as an insincere effort to attract more loyalty from consumers. You can also face problems if the non-profit you are supporting does something unethical or controversial. Then you run the risk of being perceived negatively as well. For that reason, it is important that the cause-related marketing campaign be authentic to the brand image of the products which are running the marketing campaign.