The Retail Brand’s Essential Guide to Cause Marketing

Is your brand making a difference? Are you currently seizing the opportunity to bring awareness and purpose to causes that matter?

In today’s retail environment, brands must compete on more than price and Cause Marketing is one way to effectively reach your target audience while improving the world at the same time. It’s no hyperbole. Brands actually have the power to be a force for good as they turn a profit and enrich their relationships with consumers. And their customers expect it.

Consumers believe businesses must play a role in addressing societal issues.

  • 91% believe companies must go beyond the minimum standards required by law to operate responsibly.
  • 93% wants to see more of the products and services they use support Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • More than eight-in-10 consider CSR when deciding where to work (81%), what to buy or where to shop (87%) and which products and services to recommend to others (85%)

Source: Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR Study

What is Cause Marketing?

Cause Marketing is essentially when a brand makes a profit while making society better. As a result, a company can meet its goals, support its mission and benefit causes that matter.

Cause Marketing is a corporate social responsibility, which is the point where nonprofit organizations and businesses meet to mutually benefit both. When you implement a cause marketing strategy, you give a voice to your cause. In addition, you give those causes a presence in a world that is overwhelmed with the competition.

2021 Cause Marketing Trends

It goes without saying that retail (like everyone else) has experienced massive change since early 2020.

We had to find unique ways to do business – to engage shoppers – to find purpose. Innovation was critical to success for most organizations as they found creative ways to disrupt their normal and create a new normal. 

This meant finding new ways to stand out from other brands. New ways to target consumers. New reasons to make them purchase. And as the world continued to be pulled and twisted to fit into a new normal, consumers yearned for something more. 

It’s clear now that consumers want to make a difference. Shoppers want their purchases to mean something. They want to foster change with their purchases. This gave a new foothold for cause marketing to forge an alliance between businesses and consumers. And it made an impact!

Research shows that purpose-oriented businesses had 30% higher innovation and 40% retention rates than their counterparts who failed to integrate broader purpose into their businesses.

Source: Deloitte

As we reach the midway point of 2021, we’ve seen these three cause marketing trends bring benefits to businesses that incorporate them into their strategy to stand out among the crowd:

Aligning with Purpose and Values Matters Now More than Ever

Trust and purpose are important because new generations of consumers are constantly engrossed in conversations about social issues. When you focus on cause marketing, you take on the mission of being socially conscious, which helps you align with your target consumer. 

When you align your brand with value and purpose, it helps you respond faster to shifts in society that impact your consumers. It is important to walk the talk. You must prove your intentions are real by making good on your promises with what you sell. 

If your company believes in a cause, you must be clear about it in your marketing. The consumers of today want to see that you are willing to market your beliefs on all your social media platforms and website.

79% of Americans say they feel a deeper personal connection to companies with values similar to their own.

Source: Porter Novelli/Cone Purpose Biometrics Study

Omnichannel Retail Marketing Approach Takes Your Message Further

As a cause marketing agency, we’ve learned that being agile is critical. The past year has taught us many things, one of which is that we need to be prepared to shift focus quickly. 

Now more than ever, the events happening around us drive the products a business creates and the way they are marketed. When you remain in alignment with current trends and situations and use an omnichannel retail marketing approach to discuss them, you rise above the crowd. 

When you combine cause marketing with current trends, your brand is considered a leader that makes an impact. This also makes you memorable with your target consumers.

Companies with a clearly defined sense of purpose are up to 50% more likely to successfully expand into a new market.

Source: The Business Case for Purpose

Deliver a More Human Experience with Every Brand Connection

Every person desires connection, especially after a year of separation as a result of the pandemic. Now, the desire for connection is even stronger. It’s no surprise that consumers expect more engagement from the brands they support. 

They are supporting your brand over the competition, and they want to feel good about it. This puts a heavy burden on your brand, products and marketing to quickly respond to the needs of your consumers, keeping them engaged and purchasing from your business.

Cause marketing is an ideal way to create a relationship with your consumers that benefits all parties. You’re able to rise above other companies, and they can feel good about the products they’re buying from you. 

40% of consumers seek purposeful brands and trust in brands to act in the best interest of society.

Source: GlobeScan + BBMG

5 Benefits of Cause Marketing Strategies

In today’s market, consumers are looking for the best deal, as well as making a difference with their purchases. This has proven to be a driving factor for consumers buying choices. 

As a Cause Marketing Agency for the last 20+ years, we’ve seen brands benefit big time in these 5 ways:

1. Strengthen Partnerships with Customers

Cause marketing campaigns help consumers see why it is important to purchase your product because your brand’s values and charities are aligned with what they support.

When a purchase supports a charity or improves a community, it creates an engaging moment for every sale. Each sale solves the reciprocity nature of your customer (they win, the charity wins) and sets you apart from the competition where only they can win.

87% of consumers will buy a product because the company they’re supporting cares about a cause that’s relevant to them.

Source: IEG 

2. Attract a Wider Audience

Even though customers tend to be loyal to their brand, it’s clear that consumers are happy to switch to a new brand if that business supports causes they believe in.

The current generation of consumers is more socially aware than previous generations. So not only will they support a business that believes in the same causes, but they will recommend those brands to their friends.

64% of Gen Z will pay more for an eco-friendly product. 63% of Millennials, 60% of Gen X and 57% of Baby Boomers will do the same.

Source: Global Web Index

3. Connect with Customers Authentically

It’s always important to gain the trust of your consumers. This will keep your customer loyal. If they lose faith in you and no longer trust your brand, they’ll obviously stop buying your products.

Loyalty requires a deeper connection with a foundation that’s set in common beliefs and goals. Once you gain the loyalty of your customers, it puts you ahead of your competition.

Cause marketing has pushed progress and innovative design, especially when it comes to raising funds for a charity. As your marketing evolves, you can stay in alignment with technology and make advancements that not only benefit you but also your charitable cause.

64% of global consumers will choose, switch, avoid, or boycott a brand based on where it stands on the political or social issues they care about.

Source: Edelman’s Earned Brand Study

4. Increase Sales and Growth

Customers are more inclined to make a purchase if some or all of their investment is going towards a nonprofit or charity. For this reason, it’s possible that customers will buy more than they planned when their money is going to a good cause.

Purpose-driven marketing helps to drive belief-driven sales and gives you an edge over the rest of the products on the shelf. In addition, when your company adopts cause marketing strategies, you will see a strong brand awareness which causes increased growth in revenue.

People are willing to pay 6% more for a product and are 64% more likely to recommend the company to friends if the company is socially responsible. 

Source: Nucleus Research Guidebook for Salesforce Philanthropy Cloud

5. Make A Difference for Others

The real goal of cause marketing is to enable your company to make an impact on the world and the local community. Your company is driven to produce the product and your customers are driven to purchase the product as a result of that overarching purpose.

So, in the end, not only will you be making a contribution to something beyond yourself and your brand, but it makes your brand, your team and the end customer feel empowered. 

Mission-driven workers are 54% more likely to stay for five years at a company and 30% more likely to grow into high performers than those who arrive at work with only their paycheck as the motivator.

Source: Imperative 

Developing Your Cause Marketing Strategy

So how should you approach Cause Marketing? 

A good retail marketing partner can help you understand that cause marketing can be seen in a variety of different ways for a variety of different industries. The direction of your strategy will ultimately depend on your brand’s mission, your audience and your product. The more you know about those three things, the easier it will be to define a cause marketing strategy. 

Aside from how customized your strategy may become, here are the common factors we see in most Cause Marketing campaigns that have led to successful partnerships:

Make Sure It Matters to You

The more your team is behind the cause, the better chances it has of succeeding. After all, hard work doesn’t feel like work when it’s powered by passion. Use that collective energy to get your campaign off the ground. Across social media and earned media, brands who see the most success with cause marketing are those that encourage active participation from their customers and staff.

Match the Cause to the Mission

 Sure, clever marketing and good timing can make a retail campaign do well, but the winning combination of any successful Cause Marketing strategy is when the brand and the cause are aligned from the start. This demonstrates proof that your brand authentically cares and will develop more trust with the consumer.

Make it More than Just the Product 

This can’t be a gimmick or customers will see right through it. And even for successful cause marketing strategies, money can’t just be the end goal. Brands are expected to do more than talk about it – they have to be about it. And this means integrating social good directly into their business so it raises awareness and impacts their staff and company culture as well. 

Partner with the Non-Profit

Be sure to include the charity in your cause marketing strategy to ensure that everyone’s goals are being met and your efforts are making the most impact in the right places. When you collaborate with the non-profit, you benefit from their own wisdom and research into what the target consumer wants in a cause marketing campaign. This will maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of your plan.

Cause Marketing Examples:

Businesses have used cause marketing campaigns to connect their brands with purpose for decades. 

In modern business, American Express is considered one of the first cause marketing examples when they committed to donating a penny for every dollar spent on their card for three months to restore the Statue of Liberty in the early 1980s. 

AMEX would go on to coin the term “cause-related marketing” as well as raise $1.7 million for Lady Liberty. Needless to say, it had a very positive effect on the American public’s opinion of the brand and usage would continue to rise for years as they introduced new causes every year.

Here are three of our favorite cause marketing examples from recent years: 


Corona has always encouraged their customer-base to “find your beach” and they’re committed to protecting those same beaches. The AB-Inbev brand is committing to removing 1 million pounds of plastic from beaches and its business by the brand’s 100th birthday in 2025 through its “Protect Our Beaches” initiative with Oceanic Global.


Dove is a great example of a brand who went beyond their product (make soap) to become a message of hope and inspiration for making real women feel beautiful. They lead with their causes first and their products second to make sure their consumers know where their priorities lie.

Fat Tire

With climate change threatening the environment and access to the outdoors, not to mention the resources necessary to produce great beer, New Belgium Brewing’s flagship brand, Fat Tire partnered with non-profit Protect Our Winters (POW) to support The Outdoor State, a campaign that engaged the outdoor community to vote in the 2020 election.

Be the Change Your Customers Want to See in the World

It’s easy to get started with giving back. 

To get started, figure out what cause is relevant to your brand. You can’t support every cause, or that will dilute the message that you were sending out. The more you know about your core values and your core audience, the easier it is to identify a cause and create an online framework to support or call attention to these efforts. 

We often help our clients find a retailer whose mission overlaps with their own. If they have a pre-existing cause-based program, this will create more value for both brands!

As always, be sure to measure and track your impact and expect to build your story over time – this won’t happen overnight. The cause you’re supporting must be something you’re willing to dedicate time and effort to – and when your team is connected to its purpose, this comes easy.

Ultimately, the best way to create a win-win-win campaign is to partner with a cause marketing agency that can help you align your cause with your brand to effectively target your audience. 

Cause-based marketing agencies have experts on staff who understand the industry and the best way to not only support your cause but also how to engage with your consumers. 

In the end, your product will deliver more than just ROI – it delivers purpose!

As a cause marketing agency, Cliffedge Marketing has been helping brands align their products with purpose for over 20 years. If you’re looking for innovative cause marketing ideas to help move your products at retail, get started with a free one-sheet proposal from our creative team.