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Cause Marketing 101

Written by David Harry   
Wednesday, 21 July 2010 13:26

What is cause marketing?

By Steve Gerenscer

Cause Marketing, simply put, is a marketing partnership between for profit companies and non-profit organizations. For profit companies connect with a charity in an effort to promote both.

Both organizations benefit. The for profit company gains access to consumer good will and the cause's supporters while the cause gains access to the usually much larger finances a for profit company has to market the cause.


The double edged sword

Unfortunately Cause Marketing can have a dark side and can generate as much negative publicity and it can positive. This can generally be attributed to fanatically loyal cause KFCsupporters disagreeing with the for-profit company's previous track record or perceived reasons for supporting the cause.

A recent example of this was the Kentucky Fried Chicken / Susan G Komen tie in, Buckets for the Cure. KFC released a pink bucket of chicken with a donation of 50 cents per bucket going to the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Charity. Unfortunately fried chicken and fighting cancer seemed like an incompatible matching to many cancer survivors and sufferers.

Is Cause Marketing right for you?

Before you can enter in to a Cause Marketing agreement you need to determine if your company is a good fit for this type of marketing. Most companies can find a compatible charity to work with, but if you are in a niche like oil, you may have a hard time convincing people that you are donating to charity out of the goodness of your heart rather than as an British Pretoleumattempt to cover up some past incident.

The most important part of choosing a charity to work with is that it has to be something that you are genuinely passionate about. Choosing a charity simply for marketing reasons will be seen through nearly instantly by the charity's supporters and the negative fallout will cause a reputation management fiasco that you could spend years trying to overcome.

For myself, I chose to focus on animals in need. In my other life I am a jeweler and my wife and I have always been supporters of all sorts of animal charities and rescues. Earlier this year we started a small jewelry site, Animal Charms, and a percentage of every sale is donated to animals in need. We have also developed ways for those charities to gain even more by working together with us through coupon codes and other promotions.

What type of Cause Marketing is best for you?

  • Sponsorships: The oldest form of Cause Marketing is most likely direct sponsorships. A company simply chooses to donate large sums of money in a public way. Pepsi is doing this now with its Refresh Project and more specifically with its Gulf Refresh Project.

  • Sales Incentives: The most common method of marketing is the use of a sales incentive. Your customer purchases something from you and you give a percentage to the charity. Motorola and Sprint teamed up to fight AIDS by offering a special red phone and $17 from each sale went to fight AIDS.

  • Licensing: Paying a charity for use of their logo on your products or services.

  • Direct Marketing: A combined marketing approach where the charity and the company work together to promote both of their brand awareness.

  • Facilitated Giving: This method is commonly seen at retail outlets and fast food restaurants with the "Give a Dollar" paper balloons.

  • Ownership: This method is generally reserved for larger corporations. A dedicate charity is created, such as the Ronald McDonald House, that because a part of who the company is.

Cause Marketing has been one of the fastest growing marketing segments in recent years. Done properly both the charity and the business can benefit greatly. Done poorly, and you can find yourself in a reputation nightmare that may take years to dig out from. Before entering in to a Cause Marketing campaign, research your audience, the audience of the cause, and create a carefully formatted plan for success.


Steve GerenscerAbout the Author; Steve, aka Feydakin, has been developing for and working on the internet since the days of "Internet In A Box". He has also worked in many diverse fields such as architecture, jewelry design and manufacturing, brick and mortar retail, traditional marketing and non-profit organizations. Most recently he has become a partner at Seo-Shop.Com and and re-opened his own internet marketing company, Metal Monster Marketing , specializing in helping businesses and charities work together on Cause Marketing campaigns.

Steve is also a moderator at;
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