Cause Marketing 101: How to Use It To Build Brand Trust

Image of Jenna Bunnell
Jenna Bunnell
Published: May 19, 2022

Cause marketing is the latest addition to the digital marketing menu. Brands looking to build customer and public trust, stand out from the competition, and attract a younger generation of loyal brand advocates are using this marketing method more and more. 

When brands align themselves with meaningful causes that customers can get behind they can start to have a more positive impact and, in so doing, earn the customer’s loyalty and trust. Many companies today are elevating cause marketing to a core part of their brand through social purpose strategy.

Today I’ll be walking you through the ins and outs of cause marketing and finishing off with some best practices to help you get your cause marketing strategy off to the best start.

What Is Cause Marketing All About?

Cause marketing is a marketing technique that requires brands to partner with a charity, NGO, or cause of their choice (such as sustainability, disaster recovery, and cancer research).

By doing this, the brand and their affiliated charity enjoy the mutual benefits of increased exposure, profits, and (for the charity) an uptake in donations. 

This is really effective—in more ways than one. When brands focus on a social cause that directly aligns with their own ethos and mission, a few things happen:


  1. Your brand draws positive attention, becomes more visible, and memorable;
  2. You reinforce your brand culture and values both internally and externally;  
  3. Prospects and existing customers are more likely to remain loyal to your brand;
  4. Cause marketing can protect your brand image as part of your reputation management program.
  5. Even though they might be giving a slice of profits to charity, most businesses that employ cause marketing will actually increase revenue earnings 


Types of Cause Marketing

There’s more than one way to participate in cause marketing. It’s not just a case of giving a slice of your annual profits to charity (although that is always an option). Other cause marketing strategies include checkout-based donations, charitable promotions, percentage of sale donations, digital campaigns, and product donations. 

Let’s unpack each of these in a bit more detail. 

Checkout Donations

Checkout donations are donations made by customers at the point of sale. Customers are given the option to place a donation to your brand’s charitable partner when completing a purchase. 

Charitable Promotions

Sometimes brands will incorporate cause-based marketing through promotions and offers. This gives customers a way to actively engage in the giving process and get involved. For example, a brand might make a donation to their charity every time a customer buys a specific product. That product becomes affiliated with a charitable gift. 

For instance, a coffee chain might donate a free coffee to a frontline worker every time an in-store customer spends over $10. Another way that brands engage in charitable promotions is by rolling out specific charity products. These products are usually available for a set period of time with proceeds going to the partner charity. 

Percentage-of-Sale Donations

This strategy involves donating a set percentage or value of each sale to the registered charity. For example, a fashion brand might donate 10% of each sale to the homeless. 

Digital Campaigns 

You’ve probably already seen digital campaigns online and in the media where brands team up with charities to tackle a topical social issue. These digital campaigns are often fronted with a catchy slogan or manifesto and can be super effective at driving engagement both for the brand and the charitable institution. 

Direct Product Donations

Some brands choose to donate their physical products and/or services instead of a percentage of sales. This works really well for digital products and subscription-based services (e.g mobile app testing software). 

Why Is Cause Marketing Important?

Cause marketing may seem like an optional nicety but it’s much more than that. It’s incredibly important for brands to show corporate social responsibility (CSR) and more and more customers want to do business with ethical companies. 

Cause marketing is a fantastic way to make steps toward bettering your corporate social responsibility and shows prospects that you are trustworthy and value the impact that your brand has on the wider society. 

By incorporating cause-based marketing into your digital marketing strategy you’ll be able to generate more revenue, attract new customers, and keep them loyal. 

But it’s not just about appearances and business gain, either. By aligning your business with a worthy cause you can make real social impact and support a social, charitable, or political cause that aligns with your core values, goals, and beliefs.

The Top Benefits of Cause Marketing

As well as doing good, the right cause marketing strategy can be incredibly beneficial for brands. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest advantages below. 

  1. Building exposure and credibility. Cause marketing campaigns not only get your name out there on digital channels, but they increase the perceived credibility and reputability of brands in the process.  Many of today’s consumers (especially the younger generation) are extremely savvy and also skeptical when it comes to advertising campaigns. Showing that your company aligns itself with well-respected charitable and non-government organizations tells prospects that your brand cares about more than just profits. 
  2. You’ll speak directly to Gen Z and Millenials. Speaking of the younger generation, research suggests that Gen Z and Millenials respond particularly positively to cause-based marketing. These demographics want to support ethical brands that give back to their community. But remember, giving isn’t just about money. Customers also want to see brands acting on the values they promote institutionally. For example, if your brand partners with a mental health charity, it would be important to take steps towards implementing positive practices in your organization to promote awareness and provide support for mental health issues amongst your employees.
  3. You will increase customer loyalty and retention. Traditional marketing might be enough to land one-off sales, but cause-based marketing goes one step further to help brands sustain long-term customers. Loyal customers are one of the biggest revenue generators so it’s not something you want to compromise on. These people will become your brand advocates and bring in even more new customers over time. The best way to support this loyalty is to stay true to your values, spread a clear message, and actively show customers that they can trust you. Cause marketing fosters more trusting and value-driven relationships between brands and consumers. 
  4. Consistent growth. Cause marketing actively works towards raising awareness both for brands and their affiliated charitable partners. From the business perspective, that means increased awareness, engagement, and, ultimately, growth. Oftentimes, when brands start using cause-based marketing they find that customers are willing to pay a premium for products and/or services. 

Cause Marketing Best Practices

Ready to start using cause marketing in your business? Before you get started, it’s important to set yourself up with some helpful guidelines. Whether your business specializes in B2B or B2C, consumer products or professional services, in-person or online sales, these best practices will help you execute your cause marketing strategy for the best results and happy customers. 

Pick Your Partner Carefully

Giving to any charity is great, right?

Well, yes, but in the context of cause marketing, it’s important to choose a cause that aligns closely with your brand mission. Ask yourself, “what do we stand for?” Then pick a charity, non-profit, or social cause that speaks directly to that. 

You’ll want to pick a partner that matches your company’s ethos, and a cause that will resonate closely with your target market. Make sure the organization you choose to support is one that everyone (from the C-suite to employees on the ground) can get behind. 

Be Responsive 

As you start to develop your campaign, use your creativity to reach out to a wide audience. Your cause-based marketing campaign isn’t just an opportunity to reach out to customers in new ways. 

You might even want to use your campaign as a way to help with inventory management and get those more slow-moving products off the shelves. 

Remember that the most effective cause-based campaigns are ones that are topical and timely. Brands that are quick to respond to events and trends in real-time set themselves up for the best results. 

Promote Your Cause

Once you’ve picked your cause, it’s time to promote it. You’ll want to have a communications plan with a clear message so make sure you’re also clear about your brand identity to start with. How does your campaign align with core company goals and values? How can you show this?

A big part of promoting a giving-based campaign involves mobilizing consumers in their giving. Consumers who are sympathetic to your cause will want to know how they can help and then see that their contributions are making a real difference. 

Use your company’s media platforms to encourage giving and provide results-based testimonials and success stories. Encouraging customers to share their individual contributions and efforts on their own platforms will help keep the conversation going and encourage others to get on board. 

A great way to do this is to create a social media campaign that gets people talking. Generate a hashtag or catchy CTA that users can easily tag and share.  

Try Identity Marketing

Identity marketing is all about creating personalized offers that consumers can get behind. This marketing method goes hand-in-hand with cause marketing to further drive customer loyalty and retention. The more personalized the content you put out, the more engaged and aligned your consumer will feel with your chosen cause. 

Cause marketing is a fantastic way to give back to the communities you serve while building brand engagement and supporting growth. Consider making it part of your brand story.

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