This Week in Marketing: Getting into the Specifics of Cause Marketing

Cause marketing is an interesting concept.

On the surface, this term refers to the practice of a for-profit company working to benefit a nonprofit charity or supporting a social cause.

When taking a closer look, the specifics of cause marketing are quite detailed. In this installment of This Week in Marketing, Sam and I decided not to bring in a guest and have a conversation one-on-one. This was a first for us as co-hosts and it was really fun to bounce ideas back and forth.

In segment one, we talk about the specifics of what exactly cause marketing is and what factors in. Sam and I also discuss the different degrees of cause marketing. For example, it can involve something as little as a small percentage of profits every year, or in some cases, the cause can define the brand as a whole. The latter would refer to brands like Patagonia and its undying support for environmental awareness.

In segment two, we continued our conversation and got a little deeper into the details of cause marketing and the different types we see in the business world. According to the University of Northern Iowa (my home state), there are ten different types of cause marketing:

  1. Portion of Purchase – This involves a business donating a portion of their sales to a cause or charity.
  2. Pin Ups – Typically for in-house use. Pin-ups offer some sort of icon that encourages customers to purchase for a small price during a checkout. The pin ups are then “pinned up” to be displayed throughout the store. An example of this is in Shake Shack’s involvement in SOS’s No Kid Hungry.

    SOS’s No Kid Hungry Campaign Banner Pin-Ups By Shake Shack
  3. Buy One Give One – As the name implies, this involves a customer buying a product and the company donating a product on their behalf. Tom’s One-for-One is a prime example.
  4. Point of Sale – This one refers to when a company asks customers if they would like to donate at the time of the purchase. Petco does this by asking customers if they want to donate to homeless animals on the card reader screen.
  5. Action Driven – Action driven refers to programs that encourage customers to actually do something to get involved in a cause. In some cases, this could be bringing in an item to donate.
  6. Proud Supporter – This is when a business simply donates to a cause without tying it to any sort of sale.
  7. License Agreement – An agreement between a business and a nonprofit that allows the business to use the nonprofit’s logo in their marketing campaign.
  8. Volunteerism – This is when businesses ask customers and employees to get involved and donate their time to support a cause, instead of donating money.
  9. Public Relations Program – The practice of a business including a nonprofit or social cause in their marketing to build awareness for both entities.
  10. Digital Engagement – This refers to when a business creates a digital experience to help raise awareness and funds to a cause.

Towards the end of segment two, we give our own thoughts on how these types of cause marketing are ideal in certain situations and how to approach it.

In the third segment, Sam talks about Cause Conference 2018, which is being put on by the San Diego Chapter of the American Marketing Association. We go over several of the keynote speakers and who we are most excited for. Personally, I’m interested to hear what Patrick Combes has to say. Combes is widely respected in the cause marketing world and has spoken for around 2,000 different organizations! His experience in the field includes building schools and Kenya and coaching prisoners at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility here in San Diego County.

In the last segment, we wrap up our talk about Cause Conference and dive into some ways consumers can approach businesses who support a cause. Truth be told, many businesses misfire when it comes to cause marketing. A prime example is with KFC’s “Bucket for a Cure” campaign. This involved $0.50 of every bucket of chicken sold being donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Even though it saw monetary success, it did not look so good from a PR standpoint. I mean seriously, what does fried chicken have to do with breast cancer research? Some would even argue that greasy fast food actually contributes to cancer! The lesson here is cause marketing needs to have realistic parallels.

Petco supports the cause of helping homeless animals. REI supports environmental awareness with its #OptOutside campaign on Black Friday. As a consumer, you should try to identify these congruencies before you jump onboard. In some cases, businesses are simply trying to piggyback on a cause to gain traction. There should always be a proven devotion.

Be sure to check out the full episode for more information on cause marketing!

Also, if you are in San Diego and free on 10/12/2018, Cause Conference should definitely be on your radar!

About The Hosts:

samSam Wheeler is the VP of Communications at the AMA San Diego and a lover of all things marketing. He is a graduate of Northwestern University and has worked on marketing projects for companies in Asia, Central America, and North America.

Kevin SvecKevin Svec is a chief content strategist at E2M. He spends his days researching and helping businesses produce compelling content that resonates with audiences of all interest levels. When he’s not rock climbing or hanging out at one of San Diego’s many beaches, Kevin is writing for Impulsive Wanderlust, a travel and leisure website he founded.

  • Kevin Svec is a chief content strategist at E2M. He spends his days researching and helping businesses produce compelling content that resonates with audiences of all interest levels. When he’s not rock climbing or hanging out at one of San Diego’s many beaches, Kevin is writing for Impulsive Wanderlust, a travel and leisure website he founded.