Cause Marketing: Grab your partner, do-si-do


In my last post, we discussed weaving your values with your position in the marketplace and having some stake in our shared future of the world. Cause Marketing is one way to achieve this. This sentiment resonates among Gen Z and millennial consumers who care more for fair wages, racial equity and sustainability, to name a few, than their parents. Cause Marketing, heightened during the pandemic, demonstrated a company’s social responsibility, such as providing life-saving assistance for the well-being of all of us. This strategy often exceeds the appeal of its products or services. Examples like this take place every day on all levels. Consumers feel they do good when they purchase from a company who does good. It’s a bit of a dance and, in today’s hyper-competitive market, is one more strategy that generates ROI. Let’s put Cause Marketing to work for you.

What is Cause Marketing?

Cause Marketing broadens your bigger vision and impacts people, economies and communities. It allows for flexible support of various causes throughout the year through campaigns, events, coupons or donations. Finding the right cause is like finding a good dance partner – you should be in sync, anticipating each other’s moves and aligned to each other’s brand values and mission. This partnership should build upon transparency, credibility and mutual success.

Some examples:

Starbucks’s College Achievement Program – this is a prime example of partnering at a community level and aligning with their “Bridge to a better future” Partner Promise.

St. Jude Thanks and Giving® campaign – this is a seasonal campaign that offers consumers a chance to donate through top retailers.

Walgreens and Red Nose Day – Walgreens has a diverse social responsibilities portfolio – this is just one cause run as a six-week campaign to help improve access to quality health care for all kids.

What is Cause Branding?

Distinct from Cause Marketing, Cause Branding involves aligning with causes your company may already support. It enables financial success while doing good in the world, fostering a lasting relationship where both partners are completely aligned.


Dove started with the “Campaign for Real Beauty,” but as time went on, it became Cause Branding in the form of adapting their mission to an unyielding commitment to inclusivity and body positivity

The strategy Bombas and TOMS both have is the buy-one-give-one model, where the product itself is the cause.

The differentiator game

Branding is an unending game of strategy. Philanthropy can differentiate your brand, highlighting your competitor’s shortcomings or enhancing brand experience through reputation building, customer loyalty, innovation or visibility. There are many opportunities to concoct your own magic with amazing and unique ways to do good.

In my last post, I shared an example of a beer company who supports its local dog shelter. Dogs have been in my family my entire existence, and if the beer company love dogs as much as I do, they’ve won a few rounds of beers and my Friday night. Chances are, they let me bring my dog along.

Engage your stakeholders in conversations about philanthropy, expectations and strategies. How is this cause unique, valuable and defendable? Soon you’ll both be promenading in the marketplace.

Clap hands with your partner, clap clap clap

Once you’ve found your partner, let the music begin. Raise awareness by being genuine, verifiable and relevant. You don’t want to steal the spotlight from your partner. Openly report your findings to your customers, stakeholders and nonprofit partner(s) through an evaluation plan. According to Forbes, avoid common brand pitfalls, like making your logo pink or pinkwashing messaging during Breast Cancer Awareness month. They’re right. In this case, trivializing what patients and survivors go through is under a great deal of conversation. Donating a percentage of profits or communicating the importance of doing self-exams is a way of understanding your partner’s mission. It simply takes tasteful curating where, when and how along your customer’s journey. Cross arms, circle round and let’s all be in this together.

Leave it all out on the floor 

Cause Marketing should feel good. Your business’s success and failures may rely on many factors, whether it’s a downturn in the economy, political turmoil or social indifferences to name a few. But, envisioning future circumstances and thinking about our future brand can not only lead to more positive outcomes but can also ensure you have some impact on them. Sometimes the most powerfully creative idea you can bring to the table is being yourself. Show your passion. Let loose. Be fully transparent and show the consumer all your moves.

Ken Zakovich

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