scrooge‘Tis the season to be charitable. After the Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday shopping frenzy, comes, Giving Tuesday (#givingtuesday), a movement to create a national day of giving to kick off the holiday season. Giving Tuesday celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support non-profit organizations.

Like Scrooge in the classic Dickens Christmas tale, many businesses are taking up the call, shedding their cold, corporate façade to make their favorite charity a part of their brand – a marketing strategy known as “Cause Marketing.”

Cause marketing, refers to a type of marketing involving the cooperative efforts of a for-profit business and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit. And it’s not for nothing. A study by Cone Research found that, given comparable quality and price, 91% of global consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause.

In fact, according to Nielsen, 44% of U.S. consumers said they would pay more for goods and services from companies that give back to society. And the trend is increasing, with cause marketing expected to reach $1.78 Billion in 2013, a projected increase of 4.8% over 2012, according to a report by EIG.

Do not confuse cause marketing with corporate giving. Whereas corporate sponsorship generally involves a specific tax-deductible contribution, cause marketing is a marketing relationship that is not necessarily based on a donation. However, as a business, cause marketing shows the world you care, and offers a reason for customers to support you brand and your cause.

Benefits of Cause Marketing

For marketers, who must strategically navigate the interactive environment where customers and employees demand increasing engagement and involvement from the brands they support, cause marketing can be one of the most authentic ways to demonstrate your brand story, show your corporate mission in action, and support a worthwhile cause.

The benefits for businesses can be both external, building good will and brand awareness with customers and prospects, as well as internal, boosting morale and retention among employees. Other benefits of cause marketing include:

  • Increased sales
  • Access to new audiences
  • Competitive advantage
  • Increased brand image and awareness
  • Highlight to be used in employee recruiting
  • Opportunity for new strategic partnerships
  • Technical expertise from nonprofit partners
  • Training and development opportunities for upcoming company leaders and staff

Types of Cause Marketing Campaigns

Cause marketing will look different for every company; what works for one company may not be right for another. Most cause marketing campaigns fall into one of five general types:

Transactional campaigns unlock a business donation upon a purchase whether via an actual product sale or subsequent consumer activity after the purchase.

Digital campaigns utilize online microsites or social media platforms to unlock business donations and/or encourage consumer donations or other online task. 

Licensing legally permits the use of an aspect of a nonprofit brand to be used by a company in exchange for a licensing fee. 
Message Focused 
campaigns can take many formats but focus on utilizing business resources to share a specific cause-focused message.
Events partner a cause and a company to raise money via runs, walks, celebrations, etc. or raises awareness via clean-ups, health screenings, etc.

Examples of Corporate Cause Marketing


Marketing automation leader, HubSpot, is focusing on Giving Tuesday with a Google+ campaign. For every +1 to their Google+ page, HubSpot will donate .50¢ to their charity:water campaign for clean drinking water in India.

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Levi’s Water<Less

The denim giant has not only taken a deep dive into sustainability issues behind its product life cycle, it has effectively shared its efforts with both employees and consumers alike. A partnership with Goodwill helps consumer to ‘Recycle’ jeans after using them by donating them – and has even re-written their care tag to help remind wearers to do so.

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Pepsi Refresh

Pepsi turned marketing heads around the world in 2010 when it announced that it would forego its traditional SuperBowl ads in favor of a social-media-driven, digital cause marketing campaign driven by consumer voting that would award at least $20 million for donations to local organizations and causes proposed by the public in realms like health, arts and culture, the environment and education.

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Target Take Charge of Education

Target’s school fundraising initiative donates up to 1% of purchases made using specially branded Target credit and debit cards.  Established in 1997, Target has donated more than $298 million to more than 125,000 schools nationwide.  This program is just one of Target’s initiatives to reach its commitment of donating 5% of its income to supporting communities.

Target take charge of education

Macy’s Believe

This campaign encourages kids of all ages to support the Make-a-Wish Foundation by dropping letters to Santa into Believe letter boxes in Macy’s stores. The department store donates $1 for each letter received, up to $1million, to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Macy's Believe Day

Consumers want to feel a part of something bigger than themselves and increasingly support brands that give back in some way. Cause marketing can forge meaningful relationships between for-profit companies and non-profit organizations that help the business achieve marketing goals, while also supporting a worthy cause.