What Is Cause Marketing?: FAQ
What is a cause marketing strategy?
A cause marketing strategy is a collaboration between two organizations who both stand to benefit from the collaboration. This is typically a collaboration between a for-profit business and a non-profit organization. Another cause marketing definition is when a company engages in a charitable or social campaign. As part of a cause marketing strategy, the company may also use a marketing plan template as a starting point for their plan.
The idea behind using a cause marketing strategy is that by collaborating with a charitable cause, it will help a for-profit business appear more socially conscious and responsible. When executed correctly, this helps improve a company's image, and can be used to make amends for previous mistakes made by the company. However, a cause marketing strategy can be criticized if it comes off like the business only cares about repairing its image, so it’s crucial that you present it sincerely.
What are popular examples of cause marketing?
There are a variety of cause marketing examples, but one of the most significant examples is the Nike/Colin Kaepernick marketing collaboration. This followed Colin Kaepernick, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, who received backlash for taking a knee during an NFL game as the National Anthem played. The point of Kaepernick taking a knee was to protest the treatment of black people by the US government.
Kaepernick, after receiving backlash following the incident, left the NFL and signed up with Nike as part of an ad campaign to raise awareness of the black struggle in America. The ad campaign itself created even more backlash, with a large number of conservatives burning their Nikes in protest for aligning with Kaepernick. This may have seemed like a bad decision by Nike, but in truth, they benefited two-fold from people burning their Nikes.
For one, people who destroy their products tend to rebuy them eventually. This is not universal, but it happens often enough that the protests don't make much of a difference. Furthermore, the good image of supporting a cause was a net gain for the company's image. Additionally, to Nike, one of the best things about the protest is that it got people talking about their campaign. And if the protesters hoped to hurt Nike's profits, they were likely disappointed to discover that Nike made $6 billion following those protests.
Another company that had a very similar situation was Keurig, although it was less intentional than Nike's. Keurig responded to a controversy surrounding media personality Sean Hannity, which led to Keurig pulling ads from his Fox News show.
Much like with Nike, this situation caused people to destroy their Keurig coffee pots in protest. However, this had the opposite effect they hoped would happen: people were talking positively about Keurig more than negatively, and rather than decrease, the sales of Keurig products only increased. This served as an early case study of how companies could garner success through controversy, so long as there are more supporters than opponents. It even caused some companies to begin changing their priorities about how they handle controversy.
While the terms cause marketing and cause-related marketing are often used interchangeably, there are a few differences. Namely, the term "cause-related marketing" is preferred in the United Kingdom and India, while the United States and Canada tend to use "cause marketing". The term cause-related marketing first originated in 1983, used by American Express in their own cause marketing strategy. While there are differences in where the terms originated, the definition of cause marketing is the same as cause-related marketing.