What Is Cause Marketing Definition?

What Is Cause Marketing Definition?

Blog > Learn > What Is Cause Marketing Definition?

Cory Doucette 15 min

Have you noticed how more and more businesses are embracing cause marketing strategies to make a positive impact on society?

It's amazing to see how companies are recognizing the value of aligning their brand with social causes and taking action to create meaningful change.

Combining both company and nonprofit involvement in defining these strategies is essential.

By working together, businesses and nonprofits can create more impactful and sustainable solutions.

So, if you're a mission-led or purpose-driven business looking to make a positive impact, cause marketing can be a powerful tool.

Stay tuned as we explore the world of cause marketing and discover how businesses can create positive change for society.

Cause Marketing Examples Throughout History

Companies all over the world are working to make an impact on society. Learn more about these companies and their examples of cause-driven marketing.

Let’s review some awesome examples of successful cause marketing strategies.

We'll be taking a look at how Australian family farms are promoting local produce and how American Express's Small Business Saturday initiative is making a positive impact on society. 

These real-life case examples will show you how broader definitions are applied to successful cause marketing strategies.

But let's not confuse charity-focused activities with true-cause marketing efforts that benefit both businesses and society.

We'll dive deeper into the differences between these two approaches to ensure you understand the nuances of effective cause marketing.

And we'll also be exploring the impact of effective cause marketing campaigns on profitability. However, it's not just about profits.

We'll highlight the role of these campaigns in enhancing brand reputation among customers who value socially responsible practices.

Cause Marketing Definition and Evolution

Cause marketing has evolved over time catering to the needs of society. Read more about the definition and evolution of the term.

Cause marketing has evolved significantly since its inception, with various definitions and forms emerging over time. 

The scope of cause marketing has changed from the initial "you buy, we'll give" characterization to more diverse approaches like Tom's giving shoes without a purchase necessary.

Now it encompasses a broader range of activities that aim to benefit both businesses and society.

Early Definitions Focused on Transaction-Based Contributions

Most initiatives were based on transactional contributions in the early days of cause marketing.

This meant that for every product consumers purchase, companies would donate a certain amount or percentage to their chosen charitable organization. 

One notable example is Yoplait's Save Lids to Save Lives campaign, where customers collected yogurt lids in exchange for donations towards breast cancer research.

The Emergence of Non-Purchase-Triggered Cause Marketing Initiatives

As cause marketing strategies evolved, non-purchase-triggered initiatives gained traction among mission-driven businesses.

These campaigns do not require customers to purchase for companies to contribute to social causes.

Instead, they engage audiences through other means, such as online voting or social media sharing. 

For instance, Bell Canada's annual Bell Let's Talk Day encourages people nationwide to participate in conversations about mental health via text messages and social media posts while donating funds for each interaction.

Diverse Approaches Reflecting Modern-Day Values and Priorities

The evolution of the cause marketing definition has led to a more diverse range of activities benefiting businesses and society. 

By moving beyond transaction-based contributions towards non-purchase-triggered initiatives, companies can engage audiences in meaningful ways that align with modern-day values and priorities. 

As a result, mission-led businesses are better positioned to create lasting positive impacts. 

This is true even while enhancing their brand reputation among consumers who increasingly prioritize socially responsible brands when making purchasing decisions.

The evolution of the cause marketing definition has shifted from purchase-triggered contributions to non-purchase initiatives, making it an increasingly complex and nuanced concept. 

The following section will discuss key components such as distinguishing between CSR and cause marketing, company vs. nonprofit involvement, and promotional campaigns.

Key Components in Defining Cause Marketing

There are a few key components in defining cause marketing that sets it apart from traditional marketing.

To better understand the concept of cause marketing, it is crucial to break down its definition into four key components. 

These include corporate social responsibility (CSR), company involvement, promotional campaigns, and dual purposes for profitability and societal improvement. 

Understanding these elements can help clarify what constitutes true cause marketing.

Distinguishing between CSR and Cause Marketing

Corporate actions for society's benefit, called CSR, constitute a business's commitment to ethical practices.

This may involve environmental initiatives, fair labor practices, or philanthropic efforts. 

While CSR serves as an overarching framework for responsible business operations, cause marketing focuses on promotional activities aligning with a company's CSR goals.

Company vs. Nonprofit Involvement in Defining Cause Marketing

In genuine cause marketing efforts, both for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations collaborate toward achieving shared objectives. 

The partnership should be mutually beneficial; companies gain increased brand visibility while nonprofits receive financial support or other resources from their corporate partners. 

It is essential to recognize the roles played by each party and ensure transparency regarding how funds are allocated within such collaborations.

Promotional Campaigns as an Essential Aspect

Cause marketing involves strategic promotions to raise awareness about specific causes while driving sales or customer engagement for partnering businesses. 

Examples of successful campaigns include TOMS Shoes' One-for-One model, where every purchase results in donating footwear to someone in need, or BoxLunch donating a meal to the hungry for every $10 spent in their store. 

These promotional efforts should be authentic and compelling and communicate the intended impact on business performance and societal issues.

Dual Purposes for Profitability and Societal Improvement

True cause marketing initiatives serve a dual purpose: to enhance profitability while addressing pressing social or environmental concerns. 

This approach differs from traditional philanthropy, where businesses donate funds without necessarily expecting any direct financial return. 

By integrating cause-related promotions into their overall marketing strategy, companies can create win-win situations that benefit their bottom line and the communities they support.

In summary:

  • CSR: Corporate social responsibility is an overarching framework for responsible business operations.

  • Company Involvement: Both for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations collaborate in genuine cause marketing efforts.

  • Promotional Campaigns: The cause marketing definition revolves around strategic promotions designed to raise awareness about specific causes while driving sales or customer engagement.

  • Dual Purposes: True cause marketing initiatives serve a dual purpose of enhancing profitability while addressing pressing social or environmental concerns.

Incorporating these key components into your company's approach to cause marketing will ensure that you will positively impact society.

Simultaneously, you can also reap the benefits of increased brand loyalty, enhanced reputation, and improved financial performance in today's increasingly conscious consumer landscape.

Understanding the essential aspects of cause marketing will help in developing effective campaigns that benefit both companies and nonprofits. 

Case examples provide a deeper insight into how businesses can expand their definition of cause marketing beyond traditional models.

Case Examples Demonstrating Broader Definitions

These case examples showcase how modern-day cause marketing goes beyond mere transactions or donations.

In recent years, several innovative companies have redefined traditional concepts of the cause marketing definition by implementing strategies that benefit their business while also positively impacting society. 

These inspiring case examples showcase how modern-day cause marketing goes beyond mere transactions or donations and can create lasting change.

Australian Family Farms Commercial: Self-Interest Meets Good Cause

An excellent example of this broader definition comes from the Australian family farms commercial, which highlights both self-interest and promoting a good cause. 

In this campaign, Australian farmers urge consumers to buy local produce to support small businesses and help maintain Australia's agricultural industry.

By purchasing locally sourced products, consumers enjoy fresh food and contribute to sustaining these hardworking families' livelihoods.

Benefits of supporting local agriculture:

  • Boosting the local economy

  • Promoting sustainable farming practices

  • Reducing carbon footprint through reduced transportation emissions

  • Fostering community connections between producers and consumers

American Express Small Business Saturday: Supporting Local Communities

American Express' Small Business Saturday initiative, launched in 2010, is another prime example demonstrating an expanded view of cause marketing. 

This annual event encourages shoppers to patronize small businesses during one of the busiest shopping weekends - right after Thanksgiving Day in the United States. 

American Express partners with various organizations like chambers of commerce, trade associations, nonprofits, and municipalities across America to promote awareness and support for local businesses.

Impact of Small Business Saturday:

  • In 2023, consumers spent an estimated $19.8 billion at independent retailers and restaurants on Small Business Saturday

  • The initiative has garnered the support of more than 3,500 Neighborhood Champions across all states

  • It helps to create jobs, boost the economy, and preserve neighborhoods around the country

Both examples demonstrate how cause marketing can be much more than a simple transaction-based approach. 

Companies have successfully created campaigns that benefit their business and contribute positively towards societal issues. 

This is done by incorporating innovative strategies that align with their core values and target audience's interests, these 

Cause marketing campaigns can help raise awareness, build customer loyalty, and promote social media engagement.

For-profit businesses can partner with nonprofit organizations to support a cause and positively impact society while improving their corporate schedules.

The Australian family farms commercial and the American Express Small Business Saturday initiative are two examples of cause marketing activities demonstrating a broader definition than charity. 

Now, let's look at how to differentiate between charity and cause marketing activities.

Differentiating Between Charity and Cause Marketing Activities

Here we talk about the difference between charity work carried out solely by nonprofits and genuine cause marketing activities.

When discussing social impact initiatives, it is essential to differentiate between charity work carried out solely by nonprofits and genuine cause marketing activities involving both for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations. 

Understanding these distinctions helps ensure accurate representation when discussing various types of promotional campaigns.

Charity Work: Nonprofit Organizations Taking the Lead

Nonprofit organizations primarily address specific societal issues or needs without any profit motive.

The main aim is to make a beneficial effect in their designated domain of attention, usually counting on presents, funds, and volunteers to back up their endeavors. 

Examples of nonprofit organizations include those that provide food, shelter, and assistance to the homeless or victims of disasters and those dedicated to preserving the environment.

  • Purpose: Addressing societal issues or needs with no intention of generating profits.

  • Funding: Primarily through donations from individuals or corporations and government grants.

  • Involvement: Solely driven by nonprofit organizations without direct collaboration with for-profit companies in promotional campaigns.

One example of a charitable organization is Habitat for Humanity, where volunteers donate money for supplies and their time to build homes for those in need.

In addition, The Humane Society facilitates the adoption of abandoned animals needing a home and family to take care of them. 

Cause Marketing: Collaborative Efforts Between Businesses and Nonprofits

Cause marketing occurs when for-profit businesses collaborate with nonprofit organizations in promotional campaigns that aim to benefit both parties while also creating a positive social impact. 

This is done in contrast to charity work led exclusively by nonprofits.

These joint ventures can take many forms. 

Opportunities include product sales proceeds being donated towards a charitable cause or raising awareness about an issue via advertising campaigns featuring the partnering organization's logo alongside the company's brand.

  • Purpose: Aligning business objectives with social impact goals to create a win-win situation for both parties involved.

  • Funding: Driven by the resources and investments of the collaborating companies, often including a portion of sales proceeds or direct donations from customers.

  • Involvement: Active collaboration between for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations in promotional campaigns to benefit both entities while addressing societal issues.

Consider the following examples of charity work and cause marketing to elucidate these distinctions further. 

A local food bank hosting an annual fundraising gala would be considered charity work. 

The nonprofit organization solely organizes it without any involvement from for-profit businesses in its promotional efforts. 

On the other hand, consider an online fitness company partnering with a mental health awareness organization to donate a percentage of their subscription fees towards supporting mental health initiatives during Mental Health Awareness Month.

This would be classified as cause marketing definition due to active collaboration between both entities in promoting their joint campaign.

Distinguishing between charity work and cause marketing activities allows us to understand better how different marketing campaigns contribute towards addressing societal issues.

We can also highlight unique opportunities for for-profit businesses to build customer loyalty and raise awareness through social media. 

Companies can leverage synergies that drive growth while making meaningful contributions to positive societal change.

It's done by engaging in genuine cause marketing partnerships with nonprofit partners that align with their values and objectives.

Collaborate with the nonprofit partner on social media to boost both organization’s awareness and purpose.

You can work together to find success for your business and your nonprofit partner at the same time. 

Differentiating between charity and cause marketing activities is essential for businesses to ensure their efforts effectively achieve financial success and societal impact. 

By understanding the different impacts of each, companies can create successful campaigns that drive profitability while making a positive difference in society. 

Next, we will explore how cause marketing affects profitability and society and examples of successful campaigns that have enhanced brand reputation.

The Impact of Cause Marketing on Profitability and Society

The impact on profitability and society that cause marketings holds is great. This segment investigates some effective cause marketing strategies and examines how they can improve a company's public image.

Cause marketing has been demonstrated to be a successful approach for firms wanting to increase their earnings while having an advantageous effect on society. 

Companies can create win-win situations where they benefit financially and contribute positively towards societal issues. 

These is done by implementing promotional campaigns that align with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

This segment investigates some effective cause marketing strategies and examines how they can improve a company's public image.

Examples of Successful Cause Marketing Campaigns

  • Patagonia's "1% for the Planet": Outdoor clothing company Patagonia donates 1% of its sales to environmental organizations through its 1% for the Planet initiative.

    This commitment supports important causes and resonates with their environmentally-conscious customer base, driving loyalty and increasing sales.
  • Dove's Real Beauty Campaign: Dove launched a groundbreaking campaign called "Real Beauty Sketches," which aimed at promoting self-esteem among women by showcasing real women instead of models in their advertisements.

    The campaign was hugely successful in terms of social impact and boosting Dove's brand image and product sales.

  • (RED) Partnership: (RED), founded by Bono and Bobby Shriver, partners with brands like Apple, Nike, and Starbucks, creating special edition products or services under the (RED) label.

    A portion of each sale is donated towards fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa. This collaboration benefits both parties - it raises funds for an important cause and enhances the brand image of partner companies. Learn more about (RED) and its partners.

The Role of Cause Marketing in Enhancing Brand Reputation

Implementing cause marketing strategies not only contributes to societal improvement but also plays a significant role in enhancing a company's reputation. Here are some ways how:

  1. Building Trust: Consumers today are increasingly concerned about the ethical practices and social impact of businesses they support.

    By engaging in cause marketing, companies can demonstrate their commitment to addressing social issues, thus building customer trust.

  2. Differentiating from Competitors: In highly competitive markets, aligning with a cause can help set your business apart by showcasing your values and unique selling proposition (USP).

  3. Fostering Employee Engagement: Employees often feel more motivated and engaged when working for an organization that supports meaningful causes.

    This increased engagement can lead to higher productivity levels and improved employee retention rates.

  4. Achieving Positive Media Coverage: Engaging in cause marketing initiatives often results in positive media coverage, which helps raise awareness about the supported cause and the company itself.

Incorporating effective cause marketing strategies into your overall business plan has immense potential to drive profitability while making a tangible difference in society. 

As demonstrated through various successful campaigns, this approach resonates with consumers and positively impacts brand reputation across multiple dimensions.

FAQs in Relation to Cause Marketing Strategies

You may have some strategy questions regarding cause marketing, well we have the answers for you.

What are cause marketing strategies?

Cause marketing strategies involve businesses partnering with nonprofit organizations or social causes to promote their products and services while also supporting a good cause. 

These collaborations aim to create a positive social impact, enhance brand reputation, and drive customer engagement through shared values.

What is an example of a cause marketing strategy?

Box Tops for Education started in 1996. General Mills encouraged parents to cut off the box top of their General Mills purchases and turn them into schools.

Then the schools could redeem the tops and get money to fund their education programs for children.

Now families can scan receipts to earn money for their local schools. 

What is an example company of cause-related marketing?

Warby Parker offers to buy a pair and give a pair of eyeglasses.

When you buy a pair of Warby Parker frames, they give a pair of eyeglasses to someone in need.

This cause helps those around the globe see clearly and increases job and education opportunities. 

What are the types of cause marketing?

The main types of cause marketing include:

  • Purchase-triggered donations: Businesses donate a portion of each sale towards a specific charity or project.

  • Licensing agreements: Nonprofits permit companies to use their logo on products in exchange for royalties or fees.

  • Sponsorships: Companies financially support events or campaigns organized by nonprofits or through other resources like expertise or volunteer workforces.

Cause marketing campaigns can be a powerful marketing strategy for for-profit businesses and nonprofit partners.

By partnering with a social cause, businesses can raise awareness and drive customer loyalty while positively impacting society. 

Social media can be an excellent tool for promoting cause marketing efforts and engaging with customers who share similar values.

It's important for businesses to carefully consider their cause marketing strategy and ensure that it aligns with their brand values and corporate schedules.

When done correctly, cause marketing can be a win-win for both the business and the social cause that they support.

Are You Ready to Implement a Cause Marketing Strategy? 

Cause marketing has come a long way from transaction-based contributions to much broader definitions that include non-purchase-triggered initiatives.

As businesses recognize the value of social responsibility, they must understand the critical components of effective cause marketing.

It's important to differentiate between corporate social responsibility (CSR) and cause marketing, and involve both companies and nonprofits in defining the strategy. 

And let's not forget that promotional campaigns are essential for a successful cause marketing initiative.

We've seen some incredible examples of cause marketing campaigns that have positively impacted society while enhancing brand reputation.

By understanding the key components of defining cause marketing, businesses can create effective strategies that benefit their bottom line and the social causes they support.

If you're looking for expert guidance on implementing effective cause marketing strategies, you're in the right place.

The Growth Shark is here to help you navigate this exciting field and explore future opportunities. 

Let's set up a video call to discuss how we can work together to make a positive impact and grow your business.

Are you wanting to make a difference in the world with your growing business? We have the resources and marketing skills to help create a cause driven strategy for your brand. Contact us today.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published


Coffee and Sustainability, A Win Win

Joyride Coffee's commitment to cause-marketing proved to be a catalyst for their success. Their purpose-driven approach generated increased customer loyalty and attracted new customers who appreciated Joyride Coffee's genuine dedication to making a positive impact.
See This Cause-Marketing Campaign Success
Customize your messaging

Save time and valuable ad dollars by tailoring your brand to your ideal user.

Unlock persona builder


Coffee and Sustainability, A Win Win

Joyride Coffee's commitment to cause-marketing proved to be a catalyst for their success. Their purpose-driven approach generated increased customer loyalty and attracted new customers who appreciated Joyride Coffee's genuine dedication to making a positive impact.
See This Cause-Marketing Campaign Success