Cause-Related Marketing: Are They Buying it?

The Props and Flops of Cause-Related Marketing

Cause-related marketing, or “cause marketing,” is a marketing strategy where a company partners with a non-profit organization or charity to raise money for a specific cause. Both parties mutually benefit from this partnership.

Cause marketing has become more common in marketing strategies in the past decade than ever before. Companies are expected, now more than ever, to use their platform to make social or environmental changes.

The one thing many business owners have on their minds is whether or not cause marketing actually works. The answer depends on how well your cause marketing strategy is executed. Before jumping on the cause marketing bandwagon, determine whether or not a cause marketing strategy is right for your company.

Consumer Truth vs. Social Desirability Bias

A survey showed nearly 90 percent of consumers claim they would switch brands for one that is partnered with a charity. Before jumping to conclusions, remember that surveys can be misleading. Did the survey conductors find the results by researching how many consumers actually switched to a new brand before and after a company began its cause marketing campaign? More than likely, no. It’s important to be aware that surveys gather general information, and what people say they would do when is not necessarily what they actually would do.survey

Asking a consumer if he or she would switch brands if another company that offered the same product partnered with a charity is a sensitive question that can lead to social desirability bias in survey respondents. This sort of bias makes respondents answer survey questions in a way that would be viewed more favorably by others.

In a study, researchers found that 65 percent of respondents over-reported the amount they donated to a charity. If we did a quick statistical calculation for the social desirability bias in  the cause marketing survey using that percentage, out of the 90 percent of consumers who claimed they would switch brands for a charitable cause, 58.5 percent had most likely over-reported and would not, in fact, switch brands.

Genuine Care vs. Publicity Stunt

Partnering with a nonprofit organization can add a lot of value to your company if done correctly. The marketing strategy should be centered around the cause and making a positive impact rather than how it would make your company image look. One reason cause-marketing may not work is when the ethical or social reputation of a company does not suit the distinct cause.

When a company brands itself as a supporter of a cause, the cause should be relevant to the public and the company. For example, Reebok sponsors a walking marathon called AVON 39 that raises money to end breast cancer. With Reebok being an athletic apparel company, sponsoring a walkathon fits perfectly with its brand and service.

People will be able to tell the difference between a company that genuinely cares about a cause and one using cause marketing as a public relations stunt. To create a successful cause marketing strategy, an authentic and honest campaign is a must.

Donation vs. Direct Impact

Over the past few years, people have become skeptical of companies that have pledged to donate a percentage of its sales to a cause. People have even grown wary of donating a dollar to a charity at the grocery store checkout.toms shoes marketing

Creating a cause marketing strategy that aims to have a direct impact on a social or environmental issue is much more transparent than money donations to a cause. TOMS Shoes is one of the best examples of cause marketing that makes a direct impact. For every pair of TOMS you buy, the company donates another pair to a child in need. The genuine dedication the company has to its cause is what makes the cause marketing campaign successful.

So, Does it Really Work?

The answer really depends on how dedicated your business plans to be in the partnership. A real, genuine effort to support a cause is a win-win situation for everyone involved.

The priority should never be about making a profit, but rather using your company’s influence to make a difference. Consumers want to believe that there are wholesome companies that are in touch with the community rather than companies just concerned about making more money.


Ashley Boudreaux is a senior at Louisiana State University. She is currently studying Mass Communication and French. In her free time, Ashley enjoys visiting petting zoos and climbing trees.

Work with Catapult Creative Media Inc. 

Catapult Creative Media Inc. is a digital marketing and design agency serving clients over the United States but is proud to call Baton Rouge, Louisiana home. Founded in 2007, Catapult provides digital, social and mobile marketing solutions backed by relevant strategy and measurable results. Catapult works the web to their clients’ advantage, launching them to their next level of success.

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