Developing and Enhancing Your Cause Marketing Program

By: Kathy Kelley

It is October and many of us think a bit more about charities and cause marketing this month. Although profits should not be the primary reason for building a cause marketing program into your promotional plan, it is suggested that consumers “feel good” about spending their money on goods that support a cause.  According to the 2013 Cone Communications Social Impact Study (

  • Approximately half, 54 percent, of U.S. consumers “bought a product associated with a cause” during a 12-month period between ending in fall 2013, which was a 170 percent since 1993
  • A majority of consumers, 91 percent, want “even more of the products and services they use to support [a] cause, and 88 percent want “to hear how companies are supporting social and environmental issues”
  • If you are looking to better connect with Millennial consumers via social media – they are more likely to “use social media to engage with companies around [causes]” than the general population, 64 percent vs. 51 percent

What to Consider When Developing a Cause Marketing Program

With so many local, national, and international causes already being supported by your customers’ generosity, how can you compete with them and the businesses that sponsor them?  Consider the following, which could help bolster your cause-marketing program:

Make sure that the donation process is transparent  

For each dollar that you collect you need to show how and where these funds were distributed. Consumers who do not see any progress associated with the money they donated may very well choose not to donate anymore.  Be sure to indicate on your website, in your promotional activities, and in-store that money collected helps to do great things.

Consider a cause that has a natural connection with your business  

Perhaps a member of the business has suffered from a disease that could benefit from a donation.  If this is the case, ask him or her to be the “face” of the effort. Often times, consumers are more likely to donate to a cause if “presented with a personal case of an identifiable victim” through pictures and stories, “something that purely engages the emotional system” (

We can all think of at least one brand that produces a particular varietal with a pink ribbon, but we may not realize that the winery actually began partnering with cause organizers due to a family member’s breast cancer fight. One winery that has made their private pain public is J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines. Founder Jerry Lohr lost his wife, Carol, in 2008 and through sales of both J. Lohr Carol’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, the company has a 2014 goal of “providing over 4,000 mammograms to women who would otherwise be unable to afford them” ( Certainly, the cause is worthy enough, but by associating a name, story, and image of Mrs. Carol Waldorf Lohr, we begin to associate the brand with a real family – not just a business.

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Or, perhaps there is an environmental issue that greatly impacts your city/state/region. Sales from Crimson Pinot Noir, produced by Ata Rangi Vineyard (; Martinborough, New Zealand) supports Project Crimson, “which to protect and renew our spectacular red-flowering rata and pohutukawa – New Zealand’s iconic native ‘Christmas trees’.” Not only can consumers support the cause by purchasing bottles of this wine, they can also purchase Northern Rata trees and plant them on their own property.

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Promote that you are also accepting donations

In addition to selling a product or two where the proceeds go directly to support the cause, let customers know that they can also donate funds to the cause.  You, as the business owner, may assume that consumers would automatically understand that there is more than one way to support a cause; however, it may not occur to consumers that they can make a donation in place of making a purchase.

Involve customers in selecting the cause

Two separate strategies can be used to involve consumers in selecting the cause:

  • One would be to ask consumers to nominate a cause and and ask consumers to select (by vote) the one that will receive all the donations
  • The other would allow consumers to determine which cause receives the profits from the bottles or other merchandise that they purchase

This second technique is what ONEHOPE Wine has embraced ( The brand donates half of all profits to a list of causes, including: Cure Alzheimer’s Disease, Support Our Veterans, Save Our Planet, and several others. Each wine is associated with a specific cause. For example, half of the profits for the 2012 ONEHOPE California Merlot go to support END7, which “raises awareness and funding necessary to control and eliminate the seven most commonly neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) by 2020” ( While half of the profits for 2012 ONEHOPE California Cabernet Sauvignon support children with Autism.

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Involve employees

Finally, employees should be asked to do more than just collect donations or indicate what purchases support the cause.  Involve them in the process of selecting the cause and associated administration needed to support events or activities.  The more employees support the effort the more likely they are to alert customers that your business is involved in collecting donations to help those in difficult situations.


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