Why Cause Marketing is What the World Needs Right Now

We know that the news cycle is cyclical, but it sure feels like we are currently experiencing one of the worst times our own country has gone through. Political divisiveness is usually tempered once an election is over, but it only seems to have picked up speed since our last one. And crises abound, in our own country and abroad. And, while cause marketing isn’t new, per se, it sure feels like this is exactly what our world needs right now.

You might be surprised to hear that cause marketing got its start in the early 1980s, as it really feels like it’s just begun. Back then, American Express partnered with a nonprofit group that was raising money to restore the Statue of Liberty. For every purchase on one of their cards, the company donated to the cause, with additional donations made for new customers. An ad campaign was launched to promote it. In the end, $1.7 million was made, and AmEx card use rose 27 percent.

See, that’s the thing about cause marketing. When you first hear about it, the skeptic within will just think the company is doing it for the publicity. But it’s the epitome of a win/win scenario if there ever were one.

Some of the most well known examples of it today are the Red campaign for HIV/Aids prevention, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and Purchase Plus. You’ve surely donated using the latter program without even realizing it. Also called “point of purchase”, this is when you can add a donation to your bill when checking out at grocery stores. While most of us can probably admit we’ve been annoyed at this on days when our bank accounts already felt a little light, it’s hard to deny the benefits. These “checkout for charity” campaigns reportedly raised more than $388 million in 2014 and $3.88 billion over the last three decades. That’s nothing to sneeze at, that’s for sure. That’s when you realize the power of the “If everyone just gave one dollar” mentality. When the snowball rolling down hill is a good one, there’s nothing better than the avalanche that happens because of it. We are but one person but, together, we can move mountains. And, hey, you can insert whatever inspirational phrase you want here, but there’s no denying that the results from these efforts are pretty dang cool.

You know who’s paying attention to this movement more than anyone else? Millennials. And you just rolled your eyes, didn’t you? Just the term conjures up images of entitled brats who would rather play video games than work, when the truth is that this generation is anything but lazy. And here’s another thing about them—they work for more than just a paycheck. Cause marketing is a huge thing for them, and they will go out of their way to pay more for—say, a pair of Toms—knowing that this organization donates a new pair to a child in need for every purchase.

It means so much to them that they will consider whether a company that wants to hire them has a cause marketing program. As Ad Week’s Christie Barakat notes in this article:

“Millennials consider themselves civic-minded and active participants in today’s world, and that it’s up to them to assume the responsibility of making a lasting, positive impact on the future. Millennials have surpassed simply wanting help in supporting causes and are starting to demand that others, especially companies, do their part.”

If you’re a company that hasn’t delved into this yet, it’s seriously something to consider. But don’t do it for show, as the authenticity of the cause marketing program is what will ensure its success. And people (especially millennnials!) will see right through it if you’re just going through the motions. So find something that you are truly passionate about. Reach out to a reputable nonprofit that you know is already doing good work for said cause. And just go for it.

With the news and current events enough to send us down the rabbit hole never to emerge again, cause marketing could be just the answer to what the world needs right about now.