Ariana Thomas

Cause Marketing is the Future ofSocial Movements, Here’s Why

Cause marketing offers a mutually beneficial solution for for-profit and non-profit organizations to partner with one another to elevate a social cause or movement.

Here are a few takeaways you’ll get from this article:

Cause Marketing is a great way for nonprofit & for-profit organizations to grow their businesses and contribute to a social cause.
Choosing the right cause marketing strategy can make or break your campaign.
What to and not to do when building a cause marketing campaign.
Stick around to the end for my final thoughts on building your brand while being socially responsible!

What is Cause Marketing?

Consumers increasingly expect businesses to take on social causes. In fact, according to Business Wire, 70% of consumers want to know how brands address social and environmental issues. Cause marketing offers a mutually beneficial solution for for-profit and non-profit organizations to partner with one another to elevate a social cause or movement.

Several large and small companies have launched successful cause marketing campaigns that benefited both parties. There are many types of cause marketing, so there’s room for creativity in creating your campaign’s strategy. Here are a few of the types of cause marketing campaigns that you can use:

Types of Cause Marketing Partnerships

Transactional Marketing

Donating a percentage of profits to a charity or organization.

Transactional cause marketing is when a company donates a certain percentage of profits from their customers’ purchases to a charity or nonprofit organization for a designated amount of time.

Example: Starbucks – #WhatsYourName

While Starbucks is a coffee company, its mission is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit, one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.”

Since they value creating a warm and inclusive environment for all, they partnered with Mermaids – a helpline that supports young trans people and their families who need access to information and reassurance for the #WhatsYourName campaign. This partnership aimed to raise money and awareness for Mermaids while creating a safe space for individuals to try new names when transitioning.

This transactional partnership consisted of Starbucks introducing a Mermaid Tail cookie where Starbucks donated 50 pence of each sale to the Mermaids organization. As a result of this campaign, the company exceeded its goal of raising $100,000 in funds.

Licensing Marketing

Buying a license to use a company’s name or branding.

Licensing cause marketing consists of for-profit companies paying a nonprofit organization for a brand endorsement.

Example: Walgreens’ Red Nose Day

Walgreens collaborates with the Red Nose Day Fundraising Campaign annually. Together, they aim to end child poverty and ensure that all children are safe, healthy, educated, and empowered.

Walgreens supports the campaign by highlighting the Red Nose Day fund and selling Red Noses to its customers. The profits from the red noses are donated to the fund.

As a result of this campaign, they’ve raised over $32 million and helped 31.5 million children both within the US and internationally.

Message Marketing

For-profit organizations using their marketing department to promote a cause.

Message cause marketing is when a for-profit organization uses its marketing department to highlight a nonprofit organization or cause.

Example: #ForeverAgainstAnimalTesting by The Body Shop

Being animal cruelty-free has always been one of The Body Shop’s Core values. That being said, it was surprising to none when they partnered with Cruelty-Free International to launch the #ForeverAgainstAnimalTesting campaign. This campaign protested cosmetic animal testing by seeking signatures from their customers to petition the UN to create a plan to stop the cruelty worldwide.

They gained 8.3 million signatures in 15 months.

Issue-Based Marketing

Highlighting specific issues.

Issue-based marketing consists of a for-profit brand bringing attention to specific issues.

Example: Ben & Jerry’s – Democracy Is In Your Hands

Although Ben & Jerry’s is an ice cream company, they value promoting social justice issues, including voting rights.

When the Voting Rights Act (VRA) was removed, and the US enacted voter suppression laws targeting Black, Brown, and low-income voters, Ben & Jerry’s launched an issue marketing campaign to promote voter rights.

Ben & Jerry’s shared resources on registering to vote, highlighted companies that focused on voter rights and promoted articles about activism in the field, frequently asked questions, and more.

Business Activity Marketing

Making changes to Business Activity.

Social marketing involves companies integrating ethical business practices into their employees’ day-to-day activities.

Example: H&M Conscious Clothing Line

The fast fashion industry is known for using sweatshops to produce clothing, being wasteful, and overall destroying the environment. H&M was not excluded from this and faced backlash for its negative impact on the environment.

As a response to the backlash, H&M launched Conscious Choice, a cause marketing campaign to reduce its negative environmental impact.

H&M’s Conscious Choice campaign was designed to ensure that its products are created from either recycled or sustainably made materials. They make it clear that they haven’t fully reached their goal yet, but plan for all of their products to be sustainable by 2030.

While Conscious choice receives backlash from people who consider it greenwashing, it still serves as a solid example of Business Activity Marketing because they are committed to making a difference.

Benefits of Cause Marketing

For Profit Companies

Fulfills Consumer Demands

The expectations for brands to engage in socially responsible activities are increasing. Cause marketing fulfills that demand, and can be a great competitive advantage. It against competitors that haven’t committed to social justice.

Builds Community Engagement & Brand Awareness

Promoting a specific cause, especially one that a community is directly affected by, helps boost community engagement. You can expand your audience by aligning with an organization that matches your mission.

Boosts Employee Morale

Having a cause-driven marketing campaign can boost your employee morale. When your employees feel like their work is positively impacting the world, they will be more productive and more excited to do their job.

Nonprofit Organizations

Increase Brand Awareness

Nonprofit companies benefit from greater exposure to the brand and the cause. Partnering with a for-profit organization can help nonprofits reach a larger audience. Budget constraints and lack of staffing hinder nonprofit organizations’ outreach efforts, so for-profit businesses with bigger budgets can help nonprofits bridge their budget gap.

Cause Marketing Tips: Dos and Don’ts of Cause Marketing

Many tips and tricks can be used to develop a cause marketing strategy that best represents your brand and avoids negative PR. Here are some tips to help your brand build a cause marketing campaign that best resonates with your audience and identity.


Choose a partner that is closely aligned with your brand.

Choosing a partner is the most important part of your cause marketing campaign. It’s extremely important that it makes sense for your two brands to join forces.

Before reaching out to partner with a brand, consider the company’s…

  • Mission
  • Values
  • Target Audience
  • Industries
  • Reputation
  • Overall Business Activities

Choosing the company could do more harm than good to your marketing campaign. The last thing you want to do is confuse your audience. A partnership that seems random may muddy your brand.

Consider your goals when developing a strategy.

Make sure you know your campaign’s goals so you can plan your strategy accordingly. If your goal is to increase funds or revenue, the cause marketing strategy that best supports your goal is transactional since it encourages consumers to make financial contributions to the cause. When done right, this allows your company to raise funds for the nonprofit and revenue for the for-profit company. Aligning your strategy with the goal of both companies is the key to a successful campaign for both parties.

Get feedback from your community while developing your communication strategy.

Your stakeholders should play a prominent role in developing your communication plan for your company. Since they are the most invested in your brand, they know best about what moves your supporters. That being said, they will be very likely to provide feedback that aligns with your brand and prevent a PR Disaster if your campaign isn’t aligned with the brand.


Don’t partner with a company that isn’t credible.

Choosing a partner that isn’t credible can do more harm than good for your brand’s reputation. Ensure your partner has a solid reputation and track record of ethical business practices. Partnering with an unethical business can be a PR Nightmare.

Don’t be guilty by association – do your due diligence to ensure that your brand identity isn’t tarnished by an avoidable mistake. Although incidents may pop up, it is best to vet your partners as carefully as possible.

Instead: Choose your partner carefully and do extensive research.

Use websites like,, and to find reputable partners that support specific causes. Consider the expertise and reach of these potential partners and determine whether or not they would be a good fit for you.

It’s also important to look at the leadership and attitude of the brand. Ask yourself:

Don’t start a cause-marketing campaign you aren’t going to commit to fully.

If you’re a nonprofit organization that focuses on creating a liveable wage, don’t collaborate with a fast-fashion company that produces their clothes through underpaid sweatshops if they don’t intend to change that aspect of their business. On the other hand, if the company agrees to a business activity cause marketing campaign where they collaborate with the nonprofit organization to rebuild the structure of their sourcing, this could be a great campaign marketing strategy.

Make sure you and your partner are committed to making a difference through the cause you choose to pursue. While consumers increasingly expect companies to engage in corporate social responsibility, they are also highly skeptical of social campaigns. They will do their research to determine whether or not your brand is doing what they claim to. If consumers find out that your brand is simply greenwashing, it could cause more harm to your brand’s reputation than if you had chosen not to launch the campaign in the first place.

Instead: Choose a partner or cause you can add value.

While the primary goal of a cause marketing campaign is to promote a social issue, a close second would be that the campaign is mutually beneficial.

The previously mentioned Walgreens’ Red Nose Day campaign is a great example of a great partnership. Walgreens’ target audience is exactly the type of people who care about the well-being of children – parents who might be picking up medicine for their children, grandparents, and pretty much most adults. Not only does Red Nose Day benefit from an improved brand identity but Red Nose Day gains more exposure. It’s a win-win!

Don’t forget to share details about your campaign – internally or externally.

It won’t do well if you don’t communicate about your cause-marketing campaign! Not only should you share your campaign through marketing and advertising campaigns externally, but you should also make sure that the internal teams of both parties understand the partnership inside and out. If all parties are informed, they can advocate for the campaign to their peers and community. They can also provide you with additional ideas for the campaign.

Instead: Communicate with your team and target audience frequently to boost awareness.

Your team and customers will be your best supporters, but they can’t advocate for something they don’t know about. Do your best to keep your audience engaged throughout the campaign.

Some ways you can share the news with your community include:

With your audience:

  • Create an email campaign to share the news
  • Create a social media campaign to highlight your partnership
  • Write a blog post to inform your audience about the need for the partnership
  • Send letters to your customers to keep them updated

With your employees:

  • Involve them in the planning phases
  • Meet with them to share the news and update them
  • Allow space for questions about the campaign
  • Send regular e-mail updates

Final Thoughts

When done right, cause marketing works! Not only can you make a difference in the world by promoting a great cause, but it also benefits both organizations! It’s the best way to grow your business and make a difference.

If your nonprofit organization needs help building your marketing strategy, contact us at Flylight Creative. We specialize in cause and culture marketing, so if you’re ready to work with our team and become a Light Leader, we’d love to hear from you!