Cause Marketing

4 budget-friendly examples of cause marketing

Cost-effective ways to attract and retain a customer base that shares your values

Cause marketing is a purpose-driven marketing strategy that promotes a product or service and increases awareness around important social issues.

The concept dates back to 1983 when American Express introduced it as an ingenious way of raising funds for the Statue of Liberty's restoration. The selling point was simple; the company donated one cent to the cause every time a customer used its charge card. It worked like a charm – they were not only able to raise enough money to fund the restoration, but they also grew their cardholder and card usage numbers by 45% and 28%, respectively.

Today, most companies have adopted this marketing strategy, as they've seen the mutual benefits it brings to their corporate efforts and nonprofit partners. Consumers also play a significant role in the fast adoption of this trend. A global survey reveals that 55% of customers are unlikely to engage with companies notorious for irresponsible business practices.

But don't worry if you haven't jumped on the bandwagon. There are many ways to leverage cause marketing to increase your brand awareness, build your community, and generate revenue. Draw inspiration from the success stories of companies that have adopted the cause marketing trend.

1. Aspiration

Aspiration is a California-based personal finance company that helps individuals achieve financial freedom through innovative products and services designed to make life easier. They offer a suite of online tools, including budgeting, savings, investing, credit monitoring, insurance, and more. As a socially and environmentally conscious company, they are tireless in their effort to keep their clients’ money clean.

Aspiration uses cause marketing to connect with consumers who care about protecting the environment. Their Planet Protection program is just one of their many eco-friendly marketing and revenue-building strategies. The program neutralizes the climate impact of each mile their clients drive by automatically offsetting the carbon dioxide from every gallon of gas they purchase.

Additionally, Aspiration leverages social media to communicate its values and reach millions of potential customers across the globe. In social channels, they are transparent about their environmental standards and social impact goals. The result? A highly engaged audience, high levels of participation, and increased revenue.

Buying carbon offsets (like investing in a nonprofit that plants trees or builds solar panels) and publicly committing to protecting the planet are cost-effective ways of inspiring and engaging today’s conscious consumers.

To date, the company has created a substantial amount of impact in the world (no wonder they received B-Corp’s Best for the World: Community award). Here’s just the tip of the iceberg:

  • They make a positive impact on the planet every time a customer transfers $1,000 from a big bank.
  • Every credit and debit card purchase supports the planting of a tree.
  • They donate 10% of the monthly fees they collect to nonprofit organizations.

2. !mpact Makers

!mpact Makers provides technology advisory, analytics, and engineering solutions – their mission is to better communities through business. The company fuels its philanthropic agenda by partnering with like-minded businesses. This has earned them recognition from B Corporation, winning their Best for the World: Governance award.

The company is serious about its effort to drive positive change. !mpact Makers’ approach to philanthropy is simple: "we do what we say." In the last 10 years, they have given $3.7M in profits to communities in Northern Virginia. They have also provided 11,000+ hours in pro bono services to their partners since 2009.

The company also administers mentoring and technology resources to children through their budget-friendly program called Computers for Kids. Through the program, they donate used laptops to students to help prepare them for success in technology, the classroom, and beyond. At no cost to them, the company supports locals in need and affirms their belief in educational equity.

!mpact Makers’ business and marketing strategies allow them to focus on building products and services for clients while providing significant value to the community. By focusing on helping others, the company has created a loyal client base, increased profits, and expanded into new markets.

3. King Arthur Baking Company

King Arthur baking company is the proud recipient of B Corporation's Best for the World: Workers award, thanks to their dedication to making a difference through baking. Their mission is to build stronger communities by increasing access and connection to real food. They source responsible materials and work closely with suppliers, millers, and farmers to ensure the sustainability of their supply chain.

King Arthur uses cause marketing to raise awareness about their brand values while encouraging customers to engage with organizations that align with their values. Their partners include Feeding America, Good Food Jobs, and the National Wildlife Federation. These partnerships help King Arthur build relationships and gain exposure from potential customers through an expanded community.

The company gives back to people and the planet through corporate philanthropy, sustainable practices, and employee incentives. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the company launched the For Goodness Bakes program, a budget-friendly impact initiative (considering the company’s annual revenue). The program supports bakeries experiencing hardship due to the pandemic by providing financial assistance and increasing product demand. King Arthur Baking Company provides tens of thousands of dollars to purchase baked goods from participating bakeries, which they then donate to local nonprofits in need.

As much as King Arthur is a for-profit company, there is no doubt that they are just as dedicated to social impact as they are to their bottom line. Here are a few ways they spread joy through baking: 

  • Each employee-owner receives 40 hours of paid volunteer time per year.
  • They donate 1% of gross sales from whole wheat flour to 1% For the Planet.
  • The company offsets 100% of their retail locations' electricity usage with solar energy.
  • They run a reimbursement program that encourages employees to carpool, saving up to 72,000 miles annually.

4. Beneficial State Bank

Beneficial State Bank has always been at the forefront of socially responsible banking. Like Aspiration, they ensure that their clients’ money helps make the world a better place. The bank participates in and supports social and environmental initiatives like affordable housing, race and gender equality, environmental sustainability, and more.

Their cause marketing efforts range from large lending programs for the environmental sustainability sector to public statements that express their commitment to social issues like racial justice. For example, in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, the bank stood in solidarity with black communities championing an end to police brutality. Following the tragic death of George Floyd, the company updated its homepage with a graphic to honor and spotlight Black community members killed by police officers.

The company also released a statement of solidarity with Asian American communities. In the statement, Beneficial State Bank shared the steps they are taking with their hearts, minds, wallets, voices, and votes to create a more equitable world. Small and cost-effective actions like these provide the bank with enormous potential to connect with consumer audiences that share their values.