Cause Marketing: What You Can Learn From Companies Who are Doing it Right / Managing / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

91% of global consumers are likely to switch brands to one that participates in cause marketing. Learn from 3 companies who do it right.

Drought, hunger, war, disease, and poverty are words we hear on a daily basis to describe the world around us. While our world’s wealth may be enough to provide for all, the vast majority of the earth’s population continues to go without basic necessities. The ever-growing needs of our earth and its communities have inspired many businesses to do what they can to help, and to capitalize on it in the process.

Enter cause marketing, a tactic in which companies promise to give back upon your purchase. IEG’s latest sponsorship report revealed that in 2013, companies spent 4.8% more on sponsorships than in 2012 and hit $1.78 billion—in 1990, cause sponsorship spending was at $120 million.

And consumers are taking the bait; a 2013 social impact study found that “91% of global consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause, given comparable price and quality,” and “50% of global consumers said they would be willing to reward companies that give back to society by paying more for their goods and services.”

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These numbers point to the desire of the consumer to do what they can when given the opportunity, and this popular trend has not only inspired big name brands to launch massive giving-focused campaigns, but has led to the birth of companies founded on its principals. Here are some companies leading the pack in cause marketing, and the tactics they employ for success.

Target “Buy One, Give One”

After a disastrous 2013 security breach that leaked personal information of more than 70 million customers, Target is trying to get back in the good graces of their shoppers with a giving campaign. “Buy One, Give One” promised that for every Target-brand up&up school supply item purchased, they’d donate one to to non-profit organization The Kids in Need Foundation.

The campaign reached their goal of donating more than $25 million worth of school supplies between July 13 and August 2, which claims to have given more than 1.8 million students the supplies they need for this school year.

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Their successful campaign not only donated to a good cause, but was an investment in rebuilding consumer trust. As cause marketing campaigns and companies continues to grow, many wonder if the model is sustainable. Critics wonder if the giving notion of cause marketing campaigns can actually be a catalyst for change, but the very fact that they are succeeding is an indication that the consumer favors this low-touch way of giving back.

Time will tell if cause marketing campaigns can truly make a difference, and if they are a veritable marketing avenue for more business models than just retail.

Which Wich’s “Project PB&J”

National sandwich shop Which Wich also adopted the “buy one, give one” model for their “Project PB&J” campaign, but they went one step furhter. When a hungry customer buys a “Project PB&J” sandwich, Which Wich gives a sandwich to someone who needs it now, as well as pledging to give another to someone in a greater time of need.

The goal of the campaign is to “bring comfort and comfort food to those in the world who need it, from those affected by natural disasters to local organizations who could use a little help.” Which Wich is a franchised operation, and owners of individual stores are deeply connected to their communities. “Project PB&J” allows for each owner to join the movement and give back to the community in whichever way it needs.

For example, a store in Denver donates to a local homeless shelter, and Houston-area stores partnered with an organization dedicated to ending children’s hunger and promised to donate 3,000 sandwiches.


Forget the garbage man! Terracycle is changing the way we look at waste, and giving back in the process. They makes it easy for consumers to send in their hard-to-recycle junk with free shipping labels, and then gives two cents “to the charity or school of your choice for each qualified piece of waste sent to TerraCycle.”

When donating to a Terracycle location, you can either choose to give the standard $.02 per piece of waste, or “you can select from a range of charity gifts (from providing meals or planting trees to protecting endangered lands, gifting farm animals or providing fresh drinking water).”

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Not only is Terracycle leading the way for green companies and rewarding the consumer with giving for doing good, they’re also making treasure out of trash by upcycling the waste they receive into usable products. As the triple threat of cause marketing, Terracycle is changing the way we use, give, and recycle.

Your Company & Giving Back

Regardless of the type of business you run, there are a number of ways you and your employees can give back in a way that’s meaningful for the community and your industry. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Sponsor events. Choose events that are relevant to the industry your business is involved in. Becoming a provider for events in your industry is a great way to give back while attracting new talent, getting good press, and marketing your services.

Encourage and incentivize charitable fundraising or giving. Get your team rallied behind a cause and lead the way by creating a group Movember competition, giving time off for vounteering, creating a team for a charity run, or provide charitable donation matching.

Partner with a charitable organization. Teaming up with a cause that’s close to your heart is a great way to lend your talents and funding to the community. Whether you create a particular campaign or pledge a percentage of your profits to giving, partnership is a great way to give back to your community.

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