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Level Up Your Marketing Campaign

Level Up Your Marketing Campaign


Consumers love to support companies that, in turn, support causes they deem important. Now more than ever, consumers are socially-minded; making purchasing decisions based on ethical company practices. 

Consumers are looking to purchase from companies committed to social responsibility, and that stand for something more than profits. They are looking for companies that give back to their community or take action on larger social issues. 

From a marketing standpoint, brands looking to reach their target audience should also consider raising social awareness for a particular cause as an effective marketing tactic. Also known as cause marketing, this is a great way to resonate with consumers and build brand loyalty at the same time. 

What is Cause-Driven Content Marketing?

Cause marketing takes an empathetic approach to connecting with a target audience. Sparked by American Express in the 1980s, cause marketing is a marketing tactic that encourages sales through charitable giving or expressing other forms of corporate social responsibility.

It follows the basic structure of regular content marketing in which your content—blogs, social media posts, website copy, etc.—generates website traffic, increases sales, and generates brand awareness but it focuses specifically on a specific cause or belief that is important to the target audience. 

Instead of telling people to “buy, buy, buy,” cause-driven marketing shows consumers that your brand is on the same side of an issue, and clearly demonstrates what you are doing, as a brand, to assist or create solutions to the wider social concern. 

Human beings are social animals and we like to join together and be a part of movements larger than ourselves. Cause marketing can rally people to a cause AND your brand at the same time.  

Why Should Your Business Focus on a Social Cause?

Millennials have more spending power than ever, but unlike the previous generation, they are less likely to spend frivolously. In fact, millennials spend an average of 27% less than Gen X and 23% less than Baby Boomers. 

Why are they spending less money? It may, in part, be because millennials are being more conscious of where and how they spend their money. This trend became evident in 2015 when a study was released indicating that 66% of consumers, and 73% of Millennials, would spend more money on a product or service if it came from a sustainable brand. Millennials feel so strongly in this vein that 81% of them expect companies to make a public declaration of their corporate citizenship. 

Cause related marketing is an excellent way to make an impact on this demographic. 

But you can’t just phone it in. The cause or social issue you support needs to be something that a) makes sense for your company and product, b) that will also make sense for your audience and c) that your company is passionate about. If you are insincere in your cause marketing effort, it will show. 

The cause needs to make sense for your brand but also your target audience. It needs to be something that your brand can feel good about supporting, but also be important enough to your customers that they will feel good about supporting you in supporting the cause. 

With cause-driven content marketing, you are building a relationship with your consumers. This emotional connection will not only drive sales, but also drive loyalty, increase website traffic, and drive brand awareness. 

In 2018, the Cone/Porter Novelli Purpose study detailed the long-term effects of cause-driven content marketing. Their key findings detail some of the benefits of marketing with a cause. They found that:

  • 77% of consumers felt a stronger emotional connection to cause-driven companies over traditional companies.
  • 66% of consumers would switch from a product they typically buy to a new product from a cause-driven company. 
  • 68% of consumers are more willing to share cause-driven content on social media platforms than that of traditional companies. 

As consumers shift their spending behaviors to include caused-based spending, more and more companies are jumping on this trend. 

CEO Larry Fink of BlackRock, one of the world’s largest investment firms, popularized a new standard for investing: contributing to the greater good. Specifically, he wrote letters to CEOs explaining the need to invest in environmental sustainability and climate change and how they would see a return in their company profits as a result. 

“In today’s globally interconnected world, a company must create value for and be valued by its full range of stakeholders in order to deliver long-term value for its shareholders,” said Fink, highlighting the importance of marketing with a cause.

How Do You Create Cause-Driven Content?

In order to succeed in caused-based marketing, you need to decide what cause you want to support and thematically align your content strategy to this cause. You want to speak to your customer’s pain points while providing them with helpful, relevant information; that’s relevant to both the cause and your company.

PRO TIP: Look at the causes that you already support. Are there any causes that you stand for that you believe your consumers will also stand for? Think about ways you can implement this cause into your current content marketing strategy.

Real-World Cause-Driven Marketing Examples

How do you know which causes will work well with your company and which ones won’t? Here are three real-world examples of cause-based marketing campaigns; including two successful campaigns and one that just didn’t work.

1. The Dove Self Esteem Project

The key to being successful with caused-driven content marketing is to find a cause that’s relevant to your company and your audience. For example, Dove has a body positivity and self-esteem ad campaign that goes hand in hand with its skincare products. These campaigns create an emotional connection between their audience and the brand. The audience feels more positively towards themselves, wants to amplify that positivity in their community, and therefore supports and amplifies Dove. 

Not only does Dove stand for positive body image and self-esteem, but the company also takes action to promote this cause. Dove partnered with groups like NEDIC, ANEB, and Plan Canada (Because I am a Girl), to create free, downloadable resources for parents, mentors, teachers, and youth leaders laying out how to work with teenage girls to improve their self-esteem. This action is a key reason why The Dove Self Esteem Project has been a huge marketing success!

2. Fair Harbor’s Recycled Plastic Swim Shorts

Fair Harbour is a New York-based company that recycles plastic water bottles and turns them into swim shorts! It takes 11 water bottles to make a swimsuit. Fair Harbour collects plastic bottles from the ocean, cleans them, shreds and melts them, and then spins them into yarn. 

This is genius cause-driven marketing as the cause—ocean pollution—coincides with the product itself—swim shorts. Their web copy simultaneously advertises both the products and the cause. 

In the image above you can see that their “4-way stretch fabric is made from 90% upcycled plastic bottles.” This copy provides two solutions to the customers; feeling comfortable in swim shorts and feeling good about themselves for supporting the de-pollution of the ocean. “Feeling” is the operative word here as cause-based marketing is using emotion to drive sales!

3. Pepsi’s Live for Now Campaign

Pepsi’s Live for Now commercial is a great example of what not to do when marketing with a cause! The commercial received a lot of backlash. Critics claimed that the Pepsi brand trivialized the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality.  

In this commercial, model and reality TV star Kendall Jenner is in the midst of a photoshoot while a line of protesters passes by. She locks eyes with one of the protesters and he nods for her to join. Jenner peels off her blonde wig, revealing her naturally dark hair, and joins the procession. 

The protest eventually meets a line of police officers. Jenner pulls a Pepsi can from a cool and confidently approaches the police. She hands over the Pepsi, the officer smiles, the crowd erupts in cheers and all is well with the world. 

Where did they go wrong? On the surface, the commercial has several problems. First and foremost, Pepsi made no efforts to truly relate its brand to the cause of social and racial justice. 

Casting Jenner, a wealthy white woman, to be the one to deliver ‘peace’ was, at best, tone-deaf. 

At the time the commercial aired, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was gaining significant steam, and protests in the name of racial justice had erupted all over North America. 

Instead of using this momentous opportunity to take a stand against inequality and police violence, Pepsi attempted to deliver a message of unity that did not speak to the real-world complications, but appeared to trivialize them. 

By not taking collective action in support of BLM or a related cause, Pepsi failed to make a genuine contribution to the conversation and the movement, and they failed to make a genuine connection with their audience. 

It is very important to speak to a cause instead of for a cause. The goal of marketing with a cause is to join in on the existing conversation when appropriate, instead of speaking for someone else. 

In this instance, Pepsi appeared to be downplaying the significant concerns of BIPOC folks and, at the same time, seemed to be attempting to paint these protests as a ‘trendy’ stance. It looked as though Pepsi was attempting to capitalize on the conflict rather than take a stand that would contribute to change. 

For a cause marketing campaign to be successful in the real world, it needs to provide real-world solutions. Unfortunately, a wealthy white woman handing a Pepsi to a white police officer is not a real-world solution. 

5 Tips for a Memorable Cause Marketing Strategy

So what separates successful cause-based marketing campaigns from unsuccessful cause-based marketing campaigns? 

Here’s a clue: good content marketers think less about their products and more about their product benefits. How are your products and services benefiting both the consumers and the cause? Here are 5 tips to perfect your cause-driven content marketing strategy.

1. Quantify Cause-Related Actions

Supporting a cause doesn’t mean that you have to solve it! In fact, these huge goals are likely out of reach to you alone and even out of reach to each individual consumer. If your target audience can’t visualize the actions that you are taking, then they won’t understand how your business is supporting the cause. 

Try to quantify your actions. For example, for every $50 spent at your business, you will buy a meal for your local homeless shelter. When deciding what actions your company should take to support your chosen cause, think small and think local! Recent consumer statistics show that:

  • 70% of consumers are supporting local businesses by either shopping online or in-store.
  • 38% percent of consumers say they want to support their community and local creators.

Create a goal that you can track and measure. 

2. Define Your Target Audience

If you haven’t already, you’ll need to define your target audience and align your cause with their goals. Often a target audience will go hand in hand with a good cause. 

This does not necessarily mean redefining your current target audience. Take a deep dive into who supports your brand and who you would like to support your brand. 

In this exploration, pay particular attention to the causes that these groups support. What is important to them? How can you support them in their attempts to make change while encouraging them to support your brand’s efforts toward the same change?

If you sell a food-type product, then consider partnering with Feeding America and donating food to hungry individuals. Or if you’re a retailer, stay motivated alongside powerhouses like Patagonia who are openly supportive of environmental causes and minimizing the impact of their gear on the planet through a self-imposed 1% Earth Tax.

3. Tell Heart-Warming Stories

As humans, we love storytelling. We often make purchases based on emotions rather than rationale. When creating your content marketing strategy, ask yourself where you can pull at your customer’s heartstrings and what story-telling elements you can use? 

A great way to implement strategic storytelling is to answer who, what, where, when, and how questions. Who is your team? Which community are you helping? Is it a nonprofit organization or charitable cause? Where are you helping? How are you and your team taking action for the cause? Is it a worthy cause? How will supporting this cause impact your customers? Will it build customer loyalty?

Make sure your contribution is clear. When X goal is reached, Y action will occur. A great example of this was used earlier in this post: For every $50 spent at your business, your business will contribute a meal donation to a local homeless shelter. This gives the audience a specific idea about how and when their action will trigger your action. 

4. Use Numbers

Numbers hold a lot of power. Numbers add credibility! More than that, they can have a large emotional effect on your readers. When you increase the emotional charge of your content, you can increase the emotional connection that your audience has with your brand, building loyal customers.

Facts with numbers and percentages can tell your target audience why they need to support your cause. Once you have convinced your readers why, you need to show them how in supporting your company, they are supporting the cause. 

Once your campaign is launched, you can update the audience with numbers and figures around their/your contribution. 

5. Be Authentic

Consumers need to believe that you are truthful when you say you stand for the cause. The best way to convince them is by implementing key elements of brand authenticity

Warby Parker set a good example about authenticity in their cause marketing efforts when they played down their social mission in their marketing materials. When you over do it, then the authenticity is lost.

Researchers have identified four dimensions of authenticity, including continuity, originality, reliability, and naturalness. The idea is that by focusing on each of these four dimensions, you can improve your brand authenticity. 

okwrite Can Help With Cause Marketing

If you’re ready to launch your successful cause marketing campaign, then you need the support of powerful, authoritative content. 

Our team of content experts can help you perfect the message of your cause-driven content marketing strategy and help find practical ways to implement it.

We can provide on-the-mark blogs, social media copy, and web or landing page copy to amplify your message and your cause to your existing audience while helping you grow that audience to new heights. 

Reach out to your content partners at okwrite to get started!


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