Most people, or rather, most industry professionals, think cause-branding and cause-marketing are the same thing: an initiative that a for-profit company employs to gain visibility, brand awareness and, of course, profit, by joining forces with a strong social cause, often in partnership with a non-profit organisation.
From this perspective, it may look like a win/win situation that will have benefits for both organisations as
well as the people/institutions targeted by the scheme… but let’s start from
One of the first examples of Cause Related Marketing, which comes up in almost every manual on the subject,
was the American Express project to restore the Statue of Liberty. In 1983, the
famous American financial brand raised € 1,160,000 in
support, donating small amounts for every transaction or every new credit card
issued. During the same period, American Express increased its volume of client transactions by 30% and new cards by
15% in the United States.
Very few people actually know that a year beforehand, in 1982, Amex had successfully experimented with the
cause marketing mechanism in Italy. For the whole summer of that year, it
raised money for the protection of our Italian coasts in partnership with the
WWF and Rizzoli publishing group. Use of Amex cards increased by 25%.
The figures quoted above are proof of the success of the American Express cause marketing initiative, but
now we’re getting to the point. What is the real difference between cause
marketing and cause branding?
Cause marketing is the tool
that allows companies to implement a cause branding strategy. Let’s put it like
this, if cause marketing were an aeroplane, then cause branding would be its
Today, in fact, a single cause marketing initiative is no longer enough to reinforce the bond between company
and target market. It is necessary to create a permanent association between
the brand values and the chosen cause in the eyes of the consumer, And this is
definitely the hardest part of the task, since the priority must always be
brand credibility. To give an example, in 2011 Kentucky Fried Chicken announced
a campaign to promote awareness and prevention of diabetes in children. And how
did it intend to do that? It donated 1 dollar to the Juvenile Diabetes Research
Fund for every half gallon of Pepsi sold… the equivalent of 800 calories and 56
spoons of sugar!
So the question is this: is cause-branding the branding of the future? If that is the case, it means we
have found the perfect way to define each aspect of a brand, from the values
that inspire it to how it will act for the good of the company.