What Is Cause Marketing?

Written by Kendra DeMoura

November 4, 2021

What is Cause Marketing? | Good Cause Marketing Savannah GA

It’s a question we hear often at GCM: “okay, so what exactly is cause marketing?”

The term cause marketing has evolved to be an umbrella term for several different types of cause-related endeavors, many of which also involve corporate giving and social responsibility initiatives. Most generally, the term “cause marketing” is used to refer to two main concepts:

  • cause-related marketing: when a “corporation links monetary or in-kind donations to product sales or other consumer actions.” (Kotler et al; Good Works)
  • cause promotion: when “a corporation provides funds, in-kind contributions, or other corporate resources for promotions to increase awareness and concern about a social cause or to support fundraising, participation, or volunteer recruitment for a cause.” (Kotler et al; Good Works)

And if you sense that these campaigns tend to blur the line between marketing and public relations, you wouldn’t exactly be wrong.

So, confused yet? No worries! Let’s circle back to that all-important first term: cause. After all, without a good cause none of these initiatives, regardless of how we classify them, would exist.

The cause in cause marketing may refer to a specific nonprofit or a social cause in general. Think about a local supermarket asking you to round up your purchase to the nearest dollar, with the change going to a local food pantry. Or perhaps a large coffeehouse chain is dedicated to ethical trade in the coffee industry and supports farmers and organizations working toward that goal with financial assistance, training, and certification resources. Or maybe a sock company, knowing that many people experiencing homelessness don’t have access to clean, warm socks, donates a pair of socks to shelters for each pair its customers purchase. Is this all starting to sound familiar?

Great! And chances are you can think of many other examples of campaigns and initiatives like the ones above that well-known companies have implemented successfully, for the mutual benefit of the causes they champion and those brands. But cause-related marketing isn’t only for large national and international organizations: even small businesses can implement these campaigns to both make a positive impact and strengthen their overall marketing strategy.

At Good Cause Marketing, we assist our clients with far more than just cause marketing and the many types of campaigns and initiatives that term has come to encompass, but it’s the spirit of social responsibility and these for-profit and nonprofit partnerships that inspires and informs our marketing and public relations strategies. Because while cause marketing, like marketing in general, is most certainly about reaching new customers, strengthening relationships with existing customers, and supporting sales, it’s also about advocacy, raising awareness, and doing great business while also doing something for the greater good. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about: making a difference?