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What is Cause-Related Marketing? (With Examples)

A way to improve your company’s public relations is through a cause-related marketing campaign. Here's what to know about this hyper-effective strategy.

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Cause-related marketing (CRM) is a marketing strategy that involves partnering with an organization to help a social or environmental cause. This is done while promoting the product or service, often at the same time. 

Cause-related marketing is one of the best ways to align a company’s brand with a good cause and enhance the company’s reputation. By doing so, companies increase customer loyalty, reach a broader audience, and attract socially-conscious consumers who are willing to pay a premium for products or services that support such a good cause.

Types of Cause-Related Marketing

There are different types of cause-related marketing that companies use to align their brand with a social or environmental cause. Here are the most common types and why they’re used:

  1. Product-based CRM: This is when a company donates a portion of the profits to a cause from the sale of a specific product.
  2. Sales-based CRM: This involves donating a portion of sales revenue to a cause, regardless of the specific product or service being sold.
  3. Event-based CRM: This type of campaign involves a company sponsoring an event or hosting an event to raise funds for a cause.
  4. Donation-based CRM: This is when a company encourages customers to make a donation to a cause, usually at the point of sale.
  5. Service-based CRM: This is when a company donates a portion of its services to a cause or offers discounted services to supporters of a cause.
  6. Awareness-based CRM: This involves a company raising awareness about a cause through marketing and advertising campaigns, without necessarily making a direct donation or fundraising effort.

The right approach will depend on the image you wish to project from your business, the cause in question, and the temperament of your ideal audience. For example, some customers will be pleased to know their purchase is contributing toward the cause, while others may expect your business to support the cause regardless of profit. 

In such cases, sales-based CRM may be more effective for some, while donation-based or event-based CRM may be the wiser approach for others. When choosing the right approach, be sure to consider your presence as a business, budget, and customer relationships.

Examples of Cause-Related Marketing

If you’re looking to create your own cause-related marketing campaign, you can learn a great deal by examining campaigns run by successful companies. Let’s piece through examples of effective cause-related marketing campaigns: 

  1. Toms Shoes: Toms is well-known for its “One for One” program, in which the company donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes purchased by a customer.
  2. Ben & Jerry’s: This ice cream company has a long history of supporting various social and environmental causes, such as fair trade, climate justice, and LGBTQ rights. Ben & Jerry’s has also created special ice cream flavors to support specific causes, such as “Save Our Swirled” to raise awareness about climate change.
  3. Dove: Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign aims to promote body positivity for women. The company has partnered with organizations such as the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts to help girls build confidence and self-esteem.
  4. Starbucks: Starbucks has committed to sourcing 100% of its coffee, tea, and cocoa from ethical and sustainable sources. The company also offers a range of reusable cups, and donates a portion of proceeds to support various causes, such as mental health awareness and community development.
  5. Coca-Cola: Coca-Cola’s “5by20” initiative aimed to empower five million women entrepreneurs by 2020 by providing them with business skills and resources. The program has helped women in more than 100 countries start and grow their own businesses.

As you can see, these examples capitalize on the specific reach of each business, their business ethos and brand, and the type of customer they best appeal to. This contributes to a more effective CRM plan.

How to Come Up with a Cause-Related Marketing Campaign

Coming up with an effective cause-related marketing campaign is all about strategizing and finding the right cause to align your company with. Here are steps you can follow to develop your own CRM campaign:

Identify a Cause

The first step is to identify a cause that aligns with the values of the company and its target audience. The cause should be one that the company is genuinely passionate about and can make a meaningful contribution to, instead of picking at random or following another business’ lead.

The best cause-related marketing campaigns are those that can promote a company’s product or services without taking away from the non-profit organization’s message. The campaign should reflect the company’s values in order to draw people with the same values to the company, while also making enough of a profit to successfully continue the marketing plan and have the best impact on all fronts.

For example, a company that sells meat products should not align themselves with a vegan non-profit organization. Not only does the company risk alienating their audience, but the campaign might be seen as ironic and therefore not serious in the eyes of many, undermining whatever good results from the campaign.

A better cause-related marketing campaign would be to partner with an organization that advocates for humane treatment of livestock, a cause the company can use to then advertise where they source their meats. This has a meaningful impact while staying both realistic and true to their brand.

Research the Cause

Once a cause has been identified, it’s time to research it thoroughly. This includes understanding the issues involved, the organizations that are working on the cause, and the impact that the company’s contribution could make.

This step is one of the most important, because you risk generating bad publicity if you don’t approach the cause appropriately. A thoughtless approach can end up doing more harm to the cause itself and your brand, so be thorough. 

One example of a badly received CRM campaign is Pepsi’s “Live for Now” ad featuring Kendall Jenner, which was released in 2017. The ad showed Jenner participating in a protest and offering a police officer a can of Pepsi as a peace offering. The ad was criticized for trivializing the Black Lives Matter movement and using protest imagery to sell soda.

Many people felt that the ad was tone-deaf and insensitive, so it was quickly pulled by Pepsi. The company apologized for the ad and acknowledged that it had missed the mark in trying to create a message of unity and peace.

Develop a Partnership

The next step is to develop a partnership with a nonprofit organization that is working on the cause. This could involve donating a percentage of profits, creating a fundraising campaign, or partnering on a specific project.

Communicate the Partnership

It is important to communicate the partnership with the cause effectively to your target audience. This can be done through various marketing channels, including social media, email campaigns, and in-store displays. Even providing joint marketing with the main organizations supporting the cause can help project a more unified and effective message.

Measure the Impact

Finally, it is important to measure the impact of the cause-related marketing campaign. This can include tracking the amount of money raised or the number of people reached through the campaign. This information can be used to adjust the strategy for future campaigns, as well as entice more people to join when they realize the true impact being had.

With the right approach, message, and intent, CRM can make an impact on your company, your audience, and the world overall.

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