Cause Related Marketing

Many firms are blending their corporate social responsibility initiatives with their marketing activities. ‘Cause related’ marketing is marketing that links the firm’s contributions to a designated cause to customers’ engaging directly or indirectly in revenue producing transactions with the firm. Cause marketing has also been called a part of corporate societal marketing (CSM) which is defined as marketing efforts that have at least one non economic objective related to social welfare and use the resources of the company and/or of its partners. They also include other activities such as traditional and strategic philanthropy and volunteerism as part of CSM.

Cause related marketing began in earnest in the 1980s. Many observes credit American Express with raising awareness of the mutual benefits of cause related marketing through its 1983 campaign to help restore the Statue of Liberty. By donating a penny for every credit card transaction and a dollar for each new card issued. American Express gave $1.7 million for the Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation. In the process, transactions for American Express rose 30%, and new cards issued increased by 15% during this period.

Cause-related marketing comes in many forms. Tesco a leading UK retailer has created a “Computer for schools” program. Customers receive vouchers for every 10 pounds spent, which can be donated to the school of their choice; the school can then exchange the vouchers for new computer equipment. Dawn, the top dishwashing liquid in the United States, launched a campaign highlighting the fact that the product’s grease-cleaning power had an unusual side benefit – it could be used to clean birds caught in oil spills. A Web site,, outlines its financial donations and educational program. Nike is the title sponsor of the Nike 26.2 Women’s marathon in San Fransico, whose proceeds go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In addition, Nike works with more than 60 Indian tribes to help combat Type 2 diabetes by giving sneakers to patients who have their blood tested for diabetes. British Airways has a particularly successful and highly visible program.

British Airways partnered with UNICEF and developed a cause marketing campaign called ‘Change for Good’. Passengers on British Airways flights are encouraged to donate left over foreign currency from their travels. The scheme is simple: Passengers deposit their surplus currency in envelops provided by British Airways, which collects the deposits and denotes them directly to UNICEF. British Airways advertises its program during an in-flight video, on the backs of seat cards, and with in-flight announcement. The company also developed a television ad that featured a child thanking British Airways for its contribution to UNICEF. Because Change for Good can be directly targeted to passengers and can produce immediate results. It does not require extensive advertising or promotion and is highly cost-efficient. Since 1994, almost $40 million has been raised and distributed around the world.

Cause Marketing Benefits and costs: A successful cause marketing program can produce a number of benefits: improving social welfare; creating differentiated brand positioning; building strong consumer bonds; enhancing the company’s public image with government officials and other decision makers; creating a reservoir of goodwill; boosting internal morale and galvanizing employees; and driving sales.

By humanizing the firm, consumers may develop a strong, unique bond with the firm that transcends normal marketplace transactions. Some of the specific means by which cause marketing programs can build brand equity with consumers include: (1) building brand awareness, (2) enhancing brand image, (3) establishing brand credibility, (4) evoking brand feelings, (5) creating a sense of brand community and (6) eliciting brand engagement. Liz Claiborne has exhibited strong commitment to its cause.

In 1991, at a time when domestic violence was often a taboo or “hot potato” issue, Liz Claiborne developed its Women’s work program against domestic violence, now dubbed, “Love is Not Abuse.” Prior to starting the campaign, the company had conducted research which revealed that 96% of its customers believed domestic violence was a problem and 91% of those same customers would have a positive opinion of a company that started an awareness campaign about the issue. The major fund raising event is an annual charity shopping day every October at Liz Claiborne stores across United States. The company donated 10% of sales to local domestic violence organization. Liz Claiborne also contributes proceeds from the sale of T-shirts, jewelry and other products related to the campaign. Additionally, the company pays for public service campaigns that appear on television, radio, billboards, and bus shelters and distributes awareness posters, brochures, and mailings. Over the years, Liz Claiborne has also sponsored workshops, surveys, celebrity endorsed awareness campaigns, and other events.