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Cause Marketing: Bringing Cause And Marketing Together

Cause marketing covers a wide range of marketing activities for a business. Primarily, it aims to link product or services of a company to a social cause. This leads to greater sales and more importantly, builds favorability in the minds of customers. The creation of the term is credited to American Express, who helped raise close to $2 million over a four-month period for the Statue of Liberty Restoration project. The marketing campaign led by the company used a penny for every use of their card and a dollar for every card they issued for the restoration project.

The term, ‘cause marketing’ has been mistaken to signify ‘corporate philanthropy’ and ‘social marketing’. However, it cannot be related to either of them. According to the Business in the Community, the leading British corporate social responsibility organization, it (cause marketing) is “a commercial activity by which businesses and charities or causes form a partnership with each other to market an image, product or service for mutual benefit.

How Cause Marketing Helps Businesses?

Clearly, customers prefer and trust on companies, which are socially or environmentally conscious. By turning into a willing community partner, companies stand to gain positive reviews and praise from public and employees alike. Such companies are perceived as ‘responsible’ brands too. Cause marketing has been proved to boost sales. It helps distinguish a company’s products and services from competitors. In fact, a survey revealed that two-thirds of consumers would switch retailers or brands, when quality and price are equal, to a retailer or a brand associated with a social cause. Also, employees would want to work for organizations, which support environment or social causes. Thus, cause marketing improves employee retention and contributes to the recruitment process too.
Most Influential Cause Marketing Campaigns

The American Express Statue of Liberty Restoration (1983) effort, which helped raise close to $2 million marked the birth of cause marketing. 1,000 Playgrounds in 1,000 Days was a three-year national program, which aimed to build good places for kids to play at, closer to their homes. The Yoplait Save Lids to Save Lives has remained one of America’s best breast cancer campaigns. Yoplait yogurt packaged in 4 or 6 oz. cups feature a pink lid during the collection period. These lids when mailed raise 10 cents each for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Live Strong Bracelet has turned into a worldwide fashion item, selling over 70 million for $1 each. Nike and Lance Armstrong’s idea to raise funds and awareness for the cyclist’s cancer charity has found fans in young and the elderly alike. U2 frontman Bono and Bobby Shriver of DATA founded Product (Red), which has helped raise over $140 million for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. It continues to attract corporate bigwigs, such as, Nike and Starbucks. Companies create products with the Product Red logo and a percentage of the profit goes to the Global Fund.

Cause Marketing Campaigns in India

In India, Procter & Gamble (P&G) has pioneered a number of cause marketing programs, which are aimed at rebuilding lives of young children in India. Project Drishti was aimed to restore sight for nearly 250 blind girls across the country. It was the first ever sight restoration corporate project which was undertaken in association with the National Association for the Blind (NAB). As a part of this, for every pack of Whisper sold, Re 1 went for the project.

‘Shiksha’ is a program by P&G, in association with Child Rights and You (CRY) and Sony Entertainment Television, which aims to support the education of children in India. Tata Tea, one of India’s largest tea brands, started ‘Jaago Re’. It transformed tea from a means of physical rejuvenation to a widespread social awakening. The Jaago Re One Billion Votes campaign, which was well-timed (in terms of launch) with the Indian elections, spread the message of the need to vote among citizens. It is estimated that over 6.5 lakh Indians used the platform to register as voters. Recently, Aircel launched the ‘Save Our Tigers’, a campaign, which is aimed to encourage citizens to blog about the depleting tiger population, and to stay up-to-date with tiger facts. Interested people can also donate money to NGOs working for the cause, like WWF India.

'Project Saraswati' undertaken by the Fair & Lovely Foundation, promoted economic empowerment of India’s young women. Under the project, scholarships of up to a lakh were awarded to young deserving girls from across the country to pursue their graduate and postgraduate course.

According to the IEG Sponsorship Report, cause marketing is predicted to be the fastest growing category of sponsorship spending in 2010. Cause sponsorship stood at $1.51 billion in 2009, and witnessed a decline of 0.3% (Source: Cause Marketing Forum). Some have proclaimed ‘cause marketing’ to be a ‘mature’ marketing option. However, it depends on the treatment of the cause programs by the brand. The brand needs to treat the cause marketing initiative with the same level of enthusiasm and dedication, as it does for its other marketing outreaches.

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