Cause Marketing: Promote Your Brand & Solve Social Issues

Businesses can no longer win based on price or USP.

Consumers are much savvier than they were 10 or 20 years ago, and they demand more of the brands that they follow and buy from. 

As far back as 2013, a global study by Cone Communications and Echo Research discovered that a whopping 91% of consumers would swap allegiance from one brand to another (all other things being equal) if they supported a cause they felt strongly about. 

This is where cause marketing comes in. It’s possible to make the world a little better, while still aligning with your business goals and your bottom line. 

What is Cause Marketing?

Sometimes referred to as cause-related marketing, cause marketing is simply the alignment between a for-profit brand and a non-profit organization that provides some form of benefit to both parties. 

It can be based around a simple goal or a very specific idea. It can be broad or narrow and sometimes encompasses several different marketing channels. 

Usually driven by the non-profit organization, cause marketing campaigns are generally put together and executed by a corporate partner or an ad agency. 

Ethical Marketing and Cause Marketing: Are They the Same? 

There is often some confusion surrounding ethical marketing and cause marketing, and whether or not they are, in fact, the same. 

The easiest way to remember the difference between the two is that cause marketing tends to be based around specific campaigns that have one defined goal. Ethical marketing, on the other hand, tends to be broader in definition and can apply to multiple campaigns, has many goals, and is tied into the organization at a higher level. 

It’s Not Solely About the 4 Ps

As I mentioned earlier, consumers are savvier than they used to be. What you learned in school about the 4 Ps of marketing won’t cut it today. 

Originally refined from Neil Borden’s concept of the “marketing mix,” the framework of the four Ps has been embraced by marketing and branding agencies for years. 

The 4 Ps of Marketing? 

As a refresher, here’s a quick breakdown of the 4 Ps:

  • Product:  Product is the tangible good or service(s) you offer your clients. The 4 Ps of marketing framework says that you need to have a good understanding of what your product is and what its benefits to customers are before you can take it to market.
  • Price: Profits affect everything in business. If your pricing is wrong, running your business won’t be easy. That’s why you need to have a good handle on your pricing structure and how it ties into the rest of your business.
  • Promotion: Once you have a clear understanding of your product and pricing, you can move into promotion. Whether this involves social media, SEO, PPC, email marketing or any other channel, your promotion needs to be tied into your brand identity.
  • Place: Chances are you’ve heard the old adage, “the right product, at the right price, at the right time, in the right place.” Place is the last of the 4 Ps because it often follows from the other three principles, pertaining to where and when you potential clients engage with your brand. 

While the 4 Ps represents a solid foundation for any business, its sort of selfish as it only really thinks in a 1-dimension. That of the businesses needs. Not the social impact.

A business that aligns to a cause creates loyal, engaged customers.

Cause marketing is one of my favourite new dimensions to add to the 4 Ps strategy.

A Cause Marketing Strategy

If you think that cause marketing might be right for your business, your next step should be to think about strategy. I’ve been involved in a few cause marketing campaigns over the years, and I’m sharing the lessons learned from them here. 

Find a Problem to Solve 

While a lot of cause marketing efforts happen between two unrelated profit and non-profit organisations, I believe these kinds of collaborations are more likely to feel genuine if there’s some tangible relationship between the two organisations. 

Think about the kind of problem you want to solve and how it ties in with your brand’s ethics and positioning. Does it make sense that your business is trying to help with this specific problem? Does it feel natural for your brand to get involved in this cause? 

Pick a Cause that You Genuinely Believe In 

I also believe you should pick a cause that you’re passionate about, and that your employees can get excited about. If you and your staff genuinely believe in the cause, it’ll show through in the work that your brand does with the non-profit organisation. 

It’s Not Just About the Money  

While it is safe to say that money is a necessity when backing a good cause, it’s not the be-all, end-all. Depending on the cause you choose and the problem you try and solve, time and talent might be needed too. 

In fact, a study by Good Purpose found that 64% of people surveyed said that companies giving only money isn’t enough. 

Place an Emphasis on Earned Media 

Some of the finest cause marketing campaigns are multi-channeled. For me, it makes sense to concentrate on earned media when you’re creating your campaign. 

If you’ve picked an interesting and worthy cause, you may get traction via your earned media and social channels. It’s all about raising awareness and getting people to talk about your cause; it is your earned media channels that’ll act as the conduit for the conversations around your cause. 

Who’s Doing Cause Marketing Well? 

Consumer dollars are actively being given to companies that help solve problems through cause marketing. You only have to look at when Maker’s Mark worked with a charity called One Warm Coat for the “Give Cozy, #GetCozy” Truck Tour. 

The Truck Tour picked up and then redistributed coats to Americans living in poverty. 

Two other great examples of cause marketing include 4ocean and TOMS. 


4ocean is the brainchild of two surfers whose mission to clean up the world’s oceans began after they saw fishermen in Bali pushing their boats through piles of plastic that had washed ashore

Through the sale of bracelets made from recycled plastic, 4ocean has cleaned up 5,465,794 pounds of trash. Every single bracelet pays for one of those pounds of trash to be removed. In fact, the organization has been so successful that they now have around 150 employees worldwide. 

4ocean brings the cause to the forefront, explaining exactly how your purchase helps (rather than focusing exclusively on the features of the bracelet itself). 

4ocean even has a yearly subscription offer for those who want to give a little bit more. 

This sort of cause marketing has worked incredibly well and has potentially inspired similar cause marketing campaigns, like this one from Corona. 

This summer, Corona ran a campaign aligned with World Oceans’ Day called “Pay With Plastic,” which allowed customers to pay with plastic waste selected retailers across Brazil, Italy, Spain, Mexico and Columbia. 


Corona partnered up with Parley for the Oceans to make this cause marketing campaign happen, with the stated goal of cleaning up two million square meters of beach. 


With stores around the world, TOMs isn’t your typical online shoe shop. For years, cause marketing has been at the core of TOMs’ business philosophy. 

Best known for their since-emulated “One for One” model, every purchase from TOMs helps a person in need by delivering a free pair of shoes for every pair sold.

More recently, TOMs ran its “One Day Without Shoes” campaign, during which they encouraged their social media followers to post pictures of their bare feet to Instagram. For every photo that was uploaded, TOMs gave a new pair of shoes to a child. 

What was most unique about this campaign was that you didn’t even need to be a TOMs customer to participate. Anyone was allowed to post a picture. This was a savvy move by their marketing team as it gets their brand in front of countless potential customers.

The One for One Model TOMs pioneered has taken them from a new business to a global business in around a decade, thanks in part to their well-defined philosophy around the partnerships that they create during their cause marketing campaigns. 

On their site, they list the qualities they look for in partners, including:

  • Sustainability: They only work with partners that are already active in communities
  • Local: Wherever possible, they seek to partner with locally-staffed and locally-led organizations
  • Need: TOMS works with partners to meet their long term goals 
  • Evolution: TOMs want to evolve continually, which is why they state, “We look for partners who can report back to us on how we can improve.” 
  • Neutral: None of their partners distribute their products and services that have any political or religious affiliations. 

This set of standards puts TOMs firmly at the forefront of cause marketing; as founder Blake Mycoskie states, “TOMS welcomes the opportunity to join forces with incredible organizations around the world, whose integrated approaches across health, education, and other service sectors allows us to provide a valuable link through TOMS Giving.” 

Finding Success with Cause Marketing

Maker’s Mark, Corona, 4ocean and TOMs show that cause marketing is here to stay. 

When done right, cause marketing can be incredibly effective. Just remember that you can’t jump into cause marketing with only profit in mind. You have to create partnerships that last and make a real difference in people’s lives by aligning your organization with a non-profit that’s genuinely changing the world. 

Most importantly, you have to believe in the cause yourself. When all of these different elements come into alignment, that’s when you’ll be able to create effective cause marketing.