Just Cause, Not Just Because: How Cause Marketing Helps Brands While Helping Others

Just Cause, Not Just Because: How Cause Marketing Helps Brands While Helping Others

Goodwill is good for business—and it keeps getting better. On average, 53% of U.S. consumers use social media to engage with brands on corporate social responsibility issues. According to research from the University of Southern California, this stat rises to 77% for millennials, America’s largest generational demographic. What’s more, 91% of millennials favor brands associated with a good cause compared to the national average of 85%.

As Forbes magazine reported, millennials gravitate to brands that support causes for the voiceless and often embrace causes that directly affect their lives, from health care, civil rights and education to job creation, climate change and immigration. Transparency about “where contributions are placed and how the support helps” is critical to establishing the trust needed to win over millennials and maintain their support.

Food for Thought: The Lowdown on the High Stakes

No longer a nice-to-have, cause marketing has become a mission-critical necessity. By supporting causes that reflect consumer values, food and beverage brands can feed the need for philanthropy and gain much more than tax deductions and a “feel good” sense of altruism. In an increasingly values-minded marketplace, cause marketing can maximize rewards and minimize risks.

Pam Bevilacque, senior vice president of client strategy at The Food Group, points out that a CSR initiative “shouldn’t be a ‘just because.’ It’s about a just cause in the eyes of the consumer or it isn’t about anything at all, other than a tactic to increase sales. In the end, cause marketing should be about credibility and building trust, with messaging that rings true.”

Feed the Need: Cause Marketing Examples

Sweetgreen: The fast-casual salad chain’s wastED salad initiative in partnership with chef Dan Barber exemplifies the power of clearly articulated cause marketing to make an impact from both a philanthropic and brand perspective. A portion of the profits from Sweetgreen’s wastED specialty salad made from remnant ingredients went to the food rescue organization City Harvest. The campaign’s use of a food waste solution to alleviate hunger served up heaping bowls of earned media for the brand from high-profile publications.

Oatly: Plant-based milk company Oatly, which gained renown for its A-list of celebrity backers like Oprah, has raised awareness of the brand and the vital importance of sustainable food choices through viral marketing campaigns targeting eco-conscious young consumers. Oatly’s TikTok videos emphasize the benefits of its alternative milk products with a down-to-earth relatability that has made them wildly popular. The brand has amassed 365,000 followers on TikTok alone and continues its social strategy of tying its marketing messaging to advocacy for sustainability.

Campbell's: The Campbell’s Soup Foundation, which gave over $61.9 million in charitable gifts in 2017 alone, continues to serve sustainability advocacy and outreach through its generous grant programs. Just Peachy Salsa—one of the brand’s newest social responsibility initiatives—is made from peaches that may not be considered store-worthy but are still delicious and nutritious. Over 200,000 jars of Just Peachy Salsa have been sold, and Campbell’s has donated $300,000 in proceeds to the Food Bank of New Jersey to fund 600,000 meals.

Hellmann's: The iconic mayonnaise brand has run four consecutive Super Bowl commercials that draw attention to the cause of food waste reduction. As part of the brand’s Make Taste, Not Waste campaign, this year’s ad continues the humorous approach of the others and features “Saturday Night Live” alumna Kate McKinnon who, with the help of Mayo Cat, learns how Hellmann’s can turn leftovers that would otherwise be thrown out into delicious food options. The brand has also partnered with organizations like Feeding America to raise awareness of leftovers as a source of hunger relief, and it has worked with Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic to promote federal waste reduction policies.

Cause for Pause: Consider These Key Takeaways

Be selective: Choose a charitable partner who shares your brand’s mission and values. Dig into as much data as you can to find the charities, causes and advocates that will make the most impact with your audience and help build a sense of community.

Be authentic: Not only is it critical to be transparent about how your cause marketing initiative makes a difference, but how you convey the message is equally important. Avoid hyperbole and trivializing humor—state your objectives and the impact you intend to make clearly, candidly and with conviction.

Be multichannel: Use the gamut of your digital platforms, from web to email to social, to broadcast and reinforce your message and maximize awareness of your mission. Ensure your content is engaging with a story inspiring involvement and support.

Crave more insights into how you create a cause marketing campaign with bottom-line impact?  Contact us today.

For an example of the creative ingenuity The Food Group brings to the table, check out our Holiday Sweater Generator—an AI-powered platform for turning your favorite foods into festive holiday sweaters. Foodies added 1,687 sweaters to our “closet.” We donated 10 meals for each sweater—16,870 total—to Feeding America. The platform generated 1.8 million PR impressions through an array of coveted media outlets, including AdAge, Adweek, Nosh, Martech and more. 

Topics: Marketing


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