“Cause Branding” Because It Counts
By Chelse Benham
“The one who adapts his policy to the times prospers, and likewise that the one
whose policy clashes with the demands of the times does not.” - Niccolo
Machiavelli, statesman and political philosopher, 1469 – 1527
In today’s market similar products have the smallest nuances differentiating them
from each other. In a world full of widgets and gadgets consumer purchasing
and decision making is becoming inextricably linked to social issues and cause
“So many products are similar and corporations need to advertise to improve
their image as a company. Cause Related Marketing (CRM) is a way to improve
corporate visibility. It has a trickle down effect by building preference for a
company in the future,” said Dr. Michael Minor, professor and director of the
Ph.D. program at The University of Texas-Pan American’s College of Business
Administration. “Visibility and image affects a company’s long term projections,
creating an image of the company as a ‘good member in the community.’ We’re
in an age where experience and emotions affect how we decide what to
purchase or what to watch or where to shop. It comes down to emotional
elements that drive us to act in the way we do as consumers. CRM changes
consumer impressions of companies and creates customer loyalty,” Minor said.
Carol Cone, CEO of Cone, Inc., a strategic marketing communications firm and
co-author of the Cone/Roper Report used by the marketing profession and media
to evaluate the importance of brand marketing, clearly defines the shift in
“As we enter the 21st century, it is clear that the integration of social issues and
business practices was not a passing fad for the 1990’s,” Cone writes. “but rather
the beginning of a fundamental shift in how the world’s leading companies will
use cause associations to position their organizations and brands for the future.”
Provided that price and quality were equal, 81 percent of Americans would switch
brands to support a worthwhile cause, according to the 2001 survey by
Cone/Roper. Among those surveyed, 92 percent have a positive opinion of
companies that support charitable organizations.
The highly respected CONE/ROPER benchmark survey of 2,000 adults found
90 percent of workers feel proud of their companies' values when they
support a good cause.
87 percent of workers feel a strong sense of loyalty.
83 percent of adults have a more positive image of companies who
support a cause.
65 percent would be likely to switch brands or retailers to one associated
with a good cause.
61 percent agree that cause marketing should be a standard business
Cause related marketing began with American Express in 1983. American
Express raised $1.7 million for the renovation of the Statue of Liberty and the
company’s account activity rose 28 percent and new card applications rose by 45
percent. The advertisement campaign was the first to use a cause to bring about
increase in business activity and spin the company image.
Darrell Zahorsky is the founder & CEO of Insightica Research, a company
specializing in providing business planning and marketing/sales plans for new
companies and small business. Zahorsky writes that cause-related marketing
can become the cornerstone of a company’s marketing plan. Activities should
highlight the company's reputation within its target market to differentiate the
company from its competitors and provide other tangible benefits, including:
• increased sales
• improved visibility
• enhanced company image
• positive media coverage
• attracts and retains customer loyalty – several studies over the past few
years have shown that consumers are drawn to companies that are
associated with a social cause or issue.
• market differentiation –in a crowded marketplace, Cause Related
Marketing (CRM) can help companies distinguish themselves from their
peers by offering the consumer the opportunity to contribute to something
more than the company’s bottom line.
• outreach to niche markets – partnering with nonprofit organizations can
help a company to connect with specific demographic or geographic
markets. For example, by partnering with Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer
Foundation in support of the Foundation’s Race for the Cure events, Ford
Motor Company successfully positioned itself among a formerly
disengaged target market - women.
• motivated employees
Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) offers some key points to consider
when implementing a CRM campaign. Just a few are listed here.
Identifying the Right Issue or Cause: While any issue or cause may be
suitable for establishing a cause-related marketing relationship, many companies
seek to find an issue that aligns with the company’s product or services, its
market (or potential market) or its geographic community.
Selecting the Right Partner: It is important that both the company and the
nonprofit fully understand each other’s goals and objectives, as well as their
mutual commitment to the relationship. In addition, it is important to consider:
o The organization’s reputation and public perception in the
company’s target market/audience.
o The organization’s potential to become involved with controversial
political or social issues that may reflect negatively on its corporate
o The organization’s leadership and financial management.
o The organization’s standing with local and national regulators,
taxing authorities, Better Business Bureau and other government
and non-governmental “watchdog” groups.
Establishing the Relationship: The company and the nonprofit organization
should have a clear understanding of the nature of the relationship and the
specifics of the marketing campaign.
• Checking the Legalities: Some key items are worth checking with a
lawyer. For example:
o Does the company have a formal agreement with the charity that
gives it permission to use its name?
o Does the promotion meet all local and national laws and
o Is the company shielded from liability resulting from wrongdoing by
the nonprofit organization?
Communicating the Partnership Message: Critical to the CRM campaign is
communicating the message. The most effective cause-related marketing
campaigns are those that are simple, clear and compelling to their target
If companies are having difficulty finding an organization to support they can visit
JustGive.org where more than 850,000 U.S. nonprofits are registered with the
Internal Revenue Service. Another excellent cause closer to home is The
University of Texas-Pan American’s University Scholars Program. The University
Scholars Program began in 1998 to promote academic excellence in high
schools and provides full four-year tuition and fee scholarships to qualified
“Our main focus is to get funds for The University Scholars Program,” said Candi
Roxas, executive director for the Development Office at The University of Texas-
Pan American. “The program encourages higher education among Valley youth
by making it easier to attend college. Ultimately, by producing more graduates
from UTPA that remain in the Valley, we’re having an enormous impact on the
Caring and compassion for one’s community is the objective of “cause branding.”
It’s a win-win situation. More businesses believe in giving back, whether it’s
supporting higher education through scholarships or supporting a nonprofit
organization with a nice check. Cause related interactions between businesses
and nonprofit organizations help to provide greater social awareness and
support. It’s proving to be the next major shift in business practices.
“You can buy a person's hands but you can't buy his heart. His heart is where his
enthusiasm and his loyalty are.” -- Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of
Highly Effective People,” a national best-seller by the New York Times, having
sold more than 12 million copies in 32 languages and 75 countries throughout