Cause marketing

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Cause marketing, or "cause-related marketing" is a public relations tool and business strategy that links the purchase of a product to fundraising for a charity, project, or cause. The cause (e.g., cancer research, alleviation of hunger, poverty, etc.) typically evokes strong emotions in the target while benefiting the company by stimulating sales, improving its corporate image, improving government relations (e.g., effectiveness of lobbying efforts) and benefiting a charity. Cause marketing allows a company to link itself with a positive emotional cause, and then leverage that emotion to stimulate sales among its target audiences.[1] Examples of cause marketing include the pink-ribbon Breast Cancer Awareness campaign carried out by the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Procter and Gamble's Tampax Hero campaign,[2] and Lord and Taylor's Buy-a-Cookie-Save-a-Life Kids with Cancer campaign.[3]

Corporate benefits

Cause marketing benefits companies in several ways: it creates an affinity with a brand, generates free, positive word-of-mouth promotion among consumers, and gives companies the ability to create events like walk-a-thons (or pseudo-events, like sales) that mobilize consumers to recruit other consumers' participation and thus actively promote the brand. [4][5]

Helps corporations keep marketing in a climate of distrust

As public distrust of corporations and their activities grows, cause marketing also provides a way for companies to burnish their image with the public.[6]

Helps corporations deal with consumers jaded by advertising

As Richard Edelman of the Edelman PR company pointed out, as audiences increasingly tune out their daily a deluge of advertisements, cause marketing helps companies capture that otherwise jaded audience by changing the marketing message from one of simply "buy this product" into highly emotional, compelling personal stories, for example about people stricken by disease, natural disasters or crippling poverty.[7]

Can circumvent advertising restrictions, make brand appeal to youth

If an industry's ability to advertise is curtailed (as with tobacco, as more countries prohibit cigarette advertising) cause marketing provides an alternate route through which they can get their brand before the public. An analysis in a tobacco document states, for example, cause marketing helps develop sympathy and a friendly familiarity with brand names among adults, and, by influencing adults (especially young adults), it can thereby increase the appeal, social acceptability and desirability of a product among younger age groups, an aspect of marketing that can be appealing to many companies.[8]

Leveraging emotions to increase sales

Cause marketing allows companies to generate and then leverage positive emotions to increase sales. Carol Cone’s Milliennial Cause Study in 2006, for example, found that 89% of Americans age 13–25 would switch from one brand to another brand of a comparable product and price if the latter brand were associated with a "good cause." [9].

Diverting attention

Cause marketing also helps companies divert attention from the harmful aspects of their products or antisocial behavior. For example, a tobacco company analysis states,

"The promotion of the corporate involvement in good causes, when it is linked to the brand-identifiable elements and brand name of a tobacco product, is designed to associate the imagery and affinities suggested by the advertisement with the tobacco product to encourage the purchase of the latter ... cause-related sponsorship promotion is expected to appeal to teenagers and young adults to the extent that they have an interest in, or affinity with the selected causes or with the whole concept of corporate good will activity."[10]

Related SourceWatch resources

External resources


  1. Let 'Em Run: Concept Document analysis of Philip Morris document. February 2001
  2. Cause Marketing Cause Related Marketing for Africa April 4, 2008
  3. Lord and Taylor Buy A Cookie Save a Life Advertisement, undated
  4. Philip Morris Let 'Em Run: Concept Presentation/brand plan. 18 pp. February, 2001. Bates No. 2085149814/9831
  5. Philip Morris Untitled presentation February 2001, 9 pp. Bates No. 2080335962/5970
  6. Michael Bush Carol Cone, Leader in Corporate Goodness, Joins Edelman Advertising Age, April 5, 2010
  7. Michael Bush Carol Cone, Leader in Corporate Goodness, Joins Edelman Advertising Age, April 5, 2010
  8. Rationale for Restrictions on Cause Marketing Undated report. Canadian Tobacco Trials collection. Bates No. TA31746-TA31749
  9. GQ M2M:Marketing to Men Interview INDUSTRY EXPERT: CAROL CONE, CHAIRMAN AND FOUNDER, CONE, INC. Volume 1, Issue 13, July/August 2007
  10. Rationale for Restrictions on Cause Marketing Undated report. Canadian Tobacco Trials collection. Bates No. TA31746-TA31749