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How Cause Marketing Can Elevate Your Customer Engagement

Differentiating your brand through cause marketing is a great way to connect with your customers on a far deeper level. Social causes and charitable organizations that your brand supports enter the loyalty equation in a big way. 

Many brands have created partnerships with charitable organizations that align with the messaging and causes they (and their consumers) care about. 

According to our 2022 Customer Loyalty Data Study, more than a quarter (28%) of Gen Z consumers say their favorite brands do good in the world or have a positive social impact. 

Cause marketing can play a huge role in your customer loyalty efforts. Like many loyal consumers who gravitate toward emotional and experiential brand connections, they also are attracted to charitable causes. 

Here are three key elements to help you understand cause marketing, learn what related activities brands use, and some examples of it in action. 


What is Cause Marketing?

Simply put, cause marketing is when a brand takes a stand on social issues to engage consumers, instill trust, and elevate its company profile. 

Technically, it’s a mutually beneficial collaboration between a company and a nonprofit organization to spark sales and promote the latter’s cause. 

American Express coined the term in 1983 to describe its campaign to raise money for the Statue of Liberty’s restoration. American Express donated one cent to the restoration every time someone used its charge card. As a result, the Restoration Fund raised over $1.7 million and American Express card use rose 27%.  

Cause marketing focuses on a brand’s promotional campaign that doesn’t include start and end dates. Instead, it’s about the brand’s ongoing messaging and intentions toward specific nonprofits. 

For example, for each pair of socks purchased at Bombas the company donates a pair to the homeless. Bombas sold and donated its one-millionth pair of socks within its initial 2.5 years. 

Types of Cause Marketing Activities 

Here’s a look at some different types of cause marketing activities your brand can use: 

Point-of-sale. When a cashier asks you for a donation at the register to support a specific cause. 

Purchase or action-triggered donation. A consumer buys a product and a donation is made to a cause. On World AIDS day, Starbucks donates 5 cents for every beverage purchased. 

Licensing. A company pays to use a nonprofit’s brand on its product.  

Message Promotion. This is when a brand leads with its promotion of a cause-forward message. For example, Ben & Jerry’s Scoop It Forward campaign created a partnership with Target and VolunteerMatch.  

Employee Engagement. When a brand uses employee volunteers for social good. For example, when Home Depot’s employees volunteer for local Habitat for Humanity projects, they are participating in an employee engagement campaign. 

Digital Programs. Using the web and social media-based services to promote and collect donations. 

Point of Sale Campaigns: A donation solicited by a company at the point of sale but made by the consumer (e.g., consumers are asked to round up their purchase or donate a dollar when they check out online or in-stores). 

Buy One Give One: Brands will donate a product with comparable value to a designated product based on each sale of that product.  

Volunteerism: Rather than asking for a donation, businesses will ask if customers would volunteer their time to a certain organization.  


Some Examples of Cause Marketing 

Since the pandemic began in the U.S. two years ago, a plethora of cause marketing efforts has launched, including Lyft’s “LyftUp I Access to Rides for Essential Workers” campaign. 

Lyft has partnered with hundreds of nonprofits to give free rides to vulnerable communities with essential transportation needs – like trips to the grocery store, pharmacy, or healthcare appointments. 

Company officials are also offering free Lyft rides to those working on the front lines like first-responders, health care workers, and transit staff. And they’re delivering food and life-sustaining medical supplies to families in need, seniors, and those with chronic diseases. 

Last year we worked with Lowe’s on its “100 Hometowns” campaign in honor of the company’s centennial. 

Lowe’s is completing 100 impact projects to celebrate the company’s centennial and support worthy initiatives nationwide. The 100 projects span 36 states and will help thousands of families from coast to coast. 

Some of the projects include:  

  • Reopening a legendary youth boxing gym in Washington, D.C. 
  • Expanding a women’s facility in Albuquerque, N.M. 
  • Building a playground in Randolph, OH 
  • Renovating a shelter in Richmond, CA 

We also worked with Talking rain Beverage Company, maker of Sparkling Ice® flavored sparkling water, on last year’s second annual Cheers to Heroes contest, which celebrated everyday heroes from across the country. 

After receiving more than 1,000 nominations from 905 cities across the U.S., the brand honored three people with cash prizes of $10,000, $7,500, and $5,000, respectively.  

Also, the brand awarded $500 cash prizes to 300 nominees to thank the heroes for their community service.  


It’s Important to Choose the Right Nonprofit For Your Brand 

Cause marketing can increase brand awareness, engagement, and sales. And a good cause marketing campaign can be very impactful for your brand. 

Have clearly defined objectives, have a clear call to action for consumers, provide the results, and promote the impact. 

Taking a stand on any social issue can be a powerful and impactful asset for any brand. Besides sparking a lift in sales, it can create emotional connections with your customers. 

Cause marketing can help increase your bottom line and improve our society at the same time. 

If you need help with any of your cause marketing efforts, feel free to reach out to our loyalty and customer engagement experts any time here. 


ebbo helps brands achieve their customer loyalty goals with full-service, end-to-end solutions and also creates original educational content straight from the experts to help loyalty marketers stay on the cutting edge of customer engagement.

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ebbo™ is an all-in-one loyalty company. With our data driven strategy, full-service approach, and the unwavering support of the people behind the platform, our dedicated team will work with you to understand your loyalty goals, innovate solutions and help you build customer engagement on repeat.

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