Cause Marketing…How Can You Make a Good Thing Great?

There is much potential in cause marketing. But how often do we see it used to its highest potential, taken to its highest level?

Cause marketing is nothing new. When a for-profit business supports a nonprofit, the company mission is about something bigger than itself. Sponsoring a cause is beneficial to both the company and the organization, which is why it’s a concept often-executed. Being viewed as a company who is helping a good cause appeals to customers. And although this noble work ultimately helps the business make money, one would hope that the business sincerely cares about the cause regardless.

There is much potential in cause marketing. But how often do we see it used to its highest potential, taken to its highest level? What if the cause permeated every part of the business’ marketing and company culture?

We recently noticed a company that supports and/or is a sponsor of a variety of causes. We’ll call them Company A. Some of the causes relate to their industry or location, and some don’t. They have a page on their website to display all of their work with these organizations, but none of that work is present in their marketing. Unless you visit that one specific page, you might never know that they’re involved in so many good things. Their cause marketing is not reaching the highest level--for the brand or for the cause.

We suggest these guidelines when a company chooses a cause to support:

1. Focus on causes related to your business’ industry

Beyond Company A’s missed marketing opportunities, there is also the issue of supporting too broad a range of causes. If they were to narrow their focus to only a handful or even just one cause within their industry/locale, they could use that as direction for all of their marketing activities and for their company culture. Choosing a cause based on industry is a step that gets closer to reaching that highest level. Companies often choose causes based on an employee’s personal circumstances. For instance, someone in the owner’s family may have battled cancer so the company chooses cancer research as its cause. However, the company’s industry may have nothing whatsoever to do with cancer research.

Say their industry is athletic wear. If they aligned with a nonprofit that hosted afterschool community intramurals for children in underprivileged school districts that did not have any afterschool programs, their cause marketing would be much more effective--for both the business and the nonprofit. They could, for example, offer free athletic wear to the organization and help them host events, which would help them both.

2. Look for an organization with a big network of followers

Some of the causes Company A supports have a large following and some do not. With the ones that have large networks, there is big potential for the company to gain access to that network itself by being attached to the cause. For the ones that do not have a big network, the business is not gaining much exposure by being associated with them.

3. Think about how supporting this cause can help with every aspect of your business, from internal company culture to mass marketing

Once you choose a cause or a small handful of causes to align with, it can become direction for all aspects of your business. Your brand, your company values, vision, mission, culture, marketing--when the cause permeates every part of your company is when cause marketing has reached its highest potential.