How to Make a Difference with Cause Marketing

It used to be that if you wanted to make a difference, you had to join a nonprofit organization. But if you wanted to make money, you launched a business instead. These days most nonprofits are being run like start-ups, traditional companies are built around a social mission, and one of the best ways you can help others is actually through Marketing.

Marketing doesn’t have to be just about promoting your product, service, or brand. You can also use marketing to help others in need. And you don’t have to wait until your business has grown big to start giving back. You just need to use Cause Marketing to make a difference.

Cause marketing is a joint marketing effort between a business and a nonprofit organization for mutual benefit. The term is sometimes used more broadly to refer to any type of marketing effort for social and other charitable causes, including in-house marketing efforts by nonprofit organizations. Cause marketing differs from philanthropy, as philanthropy usually involves a specific tax-deductible donation.

One of the first cause marketing campaigns was actually launched in 1976 through a partnership between the Marriot Corporation and the March of Dimes. Marriott’s objective was to generate cost-effective public relations and media coverage for the opening of their family entertainment center, Marriott’s Great America in Santa Clara, CA. The March of Dimes’ objective was to increase fundraising while motivating the collection of pledges by the program’s deadline. The promotion was conducted simultaneously in 67 cities throughout the Western United States. It exceeded all goals to become the most successful promotion in the history of Chapters West of the March of Dimes, while providing hundreds of thousands of dollars in free publicity and stimulating the record-breaking opening of the Marriott entertainment complex.

But you don’t have to be a large company like the Marriott to launch a successful cause-related marketing campaign. You just have to demonstrate a synergy between you and your nonprofit partner, with an organic integration between your message and what they do. Your audience needs to know that you are serious and committed to the cause, and the connectedness must be apparent and make sense to your customer. In other words, don’t be a phony.

You can start by partnering with a local charity to work on a small campaign. Or if you’re serious about a larger cause, contact the development department at the charity you are considering, and share information on your platform, target audience and level of visibility. Make sure that the charity organization can provide you with solid stats on your ROI. Finally, research your local laws regarding cause marketing, and meet with your accountant to discuss your campaign. Although your campaign is ultimately for a good cause, you should treat it with due diligence, like any other business venture.

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