The 5 Fundamentals of Cause Marketing

Guest post by Corey Pudhorodsky, Senior Client Partner at Social: IRL sponsor, Spredfast.  Originally posted in the Spredfast blog.

Cause Marketing – the word is tossed around more than a caesar side salad, but what does it actually mean? What are the components of a strong cause marketing campaign and how do you make it relevant to you and your audience and consumer?

In a recent strategy session comprised of industry thought leaders, we dissected cause marketing and uncovered five essential ingredients for a powerful campaign. Participants shared their own interpretations and uses for cause marketing, along with tips for final evaluation.

Attendees included:

Audrey Tiger, Senior Product Manager at Spredfast

Kristen Haga, Director of Client Services at Spredfast

David Modigliani, Creative Director at Flow Nonfiction

Alana Kalin, Account Executive at Blippar


1. Know Why You’re Doing This   

Simply put, Cause Marketing is the intersection between a brand and a cause whether that’s a cause through a third-party nonprofit or a cause that a brand adopts. Marketers are using this tactic for several reasons, both to promote a brand message and also to produce social good.

The beauty of cause marketing lies within it’s ability to add value and reinforce a brand’s image with audiences – all while using that social impact to make a difference in the world. It sounds like a perfect marriage for all parties involved but before you slap together a cause marketing campaign, some planning has to happen.

2. Be Yourself

Authenticity in cause marketing means choosing the right campaign for your consumer. Brands these days come with predefined images of what audiences already believe a brand to be, so planning a cause marketing campaign means choosing the cause that already aligns well with the image your brand portrays. If you’re a weapons manufacturer, it probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for you to select an anti-gun cause for your campaign.

Choose a cause that’s relevant to the brand and those who receive it. Once you have this connection it becomes easy to tie the cause to your product in a way that the brand can openly discuss. That my friends, is authenticity.

3. Alignment is Everything

Similar to authenticity, selecting a cause that pairs well with your brand is essential to the success of your campaign, but how do you know what resonates with your consumer? Well, that’s where social really steps in – with social you can see what your consumers are talking about, what they’re saying in their everyday conversations through social and word of mouth, and what their interests are. Take this collection of knowledge and match it up with a cause.

Below are two examples of cause marketing campaigns that clearly took brand alignment into account:

Lucky Charms


During Pride Month, General Mills celebrated diversity with a campaign around the Lucky Charms brand. The LGBT community and its allies were engaged by a call-to-action asking audiences to submit Tweets or Instagram stories using the hashtag #LuckyToBe while aggregating that content to the brand’s Tumblr page.

(RED) Campaign


The (RED) campaign was created in 2006 by Bono and Bobby Shriver to involve people in the widespread fight against AIDS. To bring social to the forefront of their campaign efforts, Spredfast created “Pulse of (RED)”, a display of images that brought in social posts from (RED) campaign supporters. There, (RED) connected with supporters while observing how audiences were interacting with their organization.

These brands selected causes where they knew they could make an impact. With absolute certainty they could say, “your cares are aligned with my cares” when talking to their audience. Once they’ve reached that point, brands can give the audience some control vs. the brand trying to sell to the audience. The brand becomes the giving facilitator and this option becomes very organic, like the grocery store adding $1 to your final bill.

Of course there are other factors to consider such as timing – when are people in the giving mood? Take that authentic message and content you’ve worked so hard to craft and capitalize on it at the right moment when your audience is feeling philanthropic. And by capitalize I don’t necessarily mean money either. These campaigns aren’t always asking audiences to do something – they could also be simply raising awareness. When brands tell a story in their cause marketing campaign, audiences are compelled to give back which is actually more effective in many cases. People will be more inclined to give later, but in the meantime they can interact and participate.

4. Extend Your Caring By Sharing  

So we get that it’s nice and all, but aside from that, why do cause marketing? Brands can only exist within a certain amount of mindshare of every consumer’s space and level of interest. When you align with a cause, you’re increasing the level of impact that you have around what those consumer interests are. With Hollister, for example, teenagers are only going to be thinking about clothes so much. Maybe they’re also thinking about surfing or the environment or a whole other set of interests that brands can tap into to show that their ideas are shared.

By creating an extension of your brand formed around other interests, brands can attach themselves to causes and extend their impact. We think about mechanics (where will they share and how will we host it) but first, we must think about the story. Tell an impactful story.

Now it’s finally time to spread the word – it’s actually a step that people miss, believe it or not. Brands need to ask others to engage and share, look at the share/retweet/follower to follow ratio on Twitter. Are you going to promote a hashtag or use a celebrity endorsement?

5. See How You Did

The end is just as important as the beginning and evaluating the success of your cause marketing campaign is the only way to learn from past mistakes or pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

How do you know if it was a success?

That has a lot to do with what you’re planning to measure. If you’re looking at reach, it would be based on the total potential reach or number of interactions that you’ve had. If you’re looking to raise money, it would be based on the total number of funds that have been donated either through your audience of consumers or your brand, based on the number of activations you’ve reached from people who’ve participated. If you’re looking at awareness, you might do some surveying before and after to see what’s been the increase in education about the cause.

Whatever your goal is, it must be established beforehand. If you’re partnering with a nonprofit make sure that you know their goals too because the best cause marketing campaigns are the ones that aren’t just performed one time. It’s the brands that have an ongoing partnership with a nonprofit where the brand is really increasing their interaction with a cause of a period of time.

Ready? Set? Plan!

The best cause marketing campaigns are the ones that have a lot of thought behind them. Reach beyond the obvious with a campaign that resonates with your audience and tells a story that the consumer can relate to. There’s so much more beyond the business aspect of a brand where clients are interacting with products in uncovered ways – it’s up to brands to get in touch with these storytellers and raise awareness. The people who care and causes already exist, brands just have to connect with them.