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Cause Related Marketing

Cause marketing or cause-related marketing refers to a type of marketing involving the cooperative efforts of a “for profit” business and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit.


One of the first “cause marketing” campaigns occurred in 1976 through a partnership between Marriott Corporation and the March of Dimes. Marriott’s objective was to generate highly cost-effective public relations and media coverage for the opening of their 200-acre family entertainment center, Marriott’s Great America in Santa Clara, CA. The March of Dimes’ objective was to greatly increase fundraising while motivating the collection of pledges by the program’s deadline. The promotion was conducted simultaneously in 67 cities throughout the Western United States. It exceeded all goals to become the most successful promotion in the history of Chapters West of the March of Dimes, while providing hundreds of thousands of dollars in free publicity and stimulated the record-breaking opening of the Marriott entertainment complex.

The program was conceived and directed by Bruce Burtch, who went on to become a nationally-recognized catalyst for cause marketing programs. Indeed, Bruce is credited with coining the phrase, “Do Well by Doing Good”, which was his answer to the CEO of a major corporate foundation when asked what his goal is life was…in 1977.

Another of the first examples of a “cause-related marketing” campaign was initiated in 1979 by Rosica, Mulhern & Associates for Famous Amos cookies. In this campaign, Wally Amos become the National Spokesperson for the Literacy Volunteers of America. According to the organization, Wally has alerted more people to the illiteracy problem than any other person in history. This strategic cause-marketing tie-in helped to tell the Famous Amos Cookie story while maintaining visibility and is responsible for many new and expanded literacy programs. This case study is now used in university classrooms nationwide as an example of successful “cause-related marketing”.

The creation of the term “cause-related marketing” is attributed to American Express, and it was coined to describe efforts to support locally based charitable causes in a way that also promoted business. The term was then used to describe the marketing campaign led by American Express in 1983 for the Statue of Liberty Restoration project.


According to a report published by onPhilanthropy, cause marketing sponsorship by American businesses is rising at a dramatic rate. Citing an IEG, Inc. study, $1.11 billion was spent in 2005, an estimated $1.34 billion will be spent in 2006, and the number was expected to rise further in 2007.

Cause-related marketing is a powerful marketing tool that business and nonprofit organizations are increasingly leveraging. According to the Cone Millennial Cause Study in 2006, 89% of Americans (aged 13 to 25) would switch from one brand to another brand of a comparable product (and price) if the latter brand was associated with “good cause”. The same study also indicated that a significant percentage surveyed would prefer to work for a company that was considered socially responsible. This can be linked to the increase in workplace giving programs. Earlier studies by Cone indicate an upward trend in the number of Americans who associate their own buying habits with cause marketing as well as an expectation that those companies to be “good corporate citizens”. These studies also show a substantial increase from just before to just after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Numerous other studies have also been conducted to show that cause-related marketing has helped to increase a company’s profits. For example, in the cause marketing campaign by American Express (to which the term “cause marketing” is attributed), the company saw a 17% increase in new users and a 28% increase in card usage.


Cannes Lions

The Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival is the world’s global meeting place for those passionate about creativity in communications.

During seven days in June, delegates gather in Cannes to celebrate the best that the advertising industry has to offer the world, to review the year just gone, and to draw a roadmap for the future. More than 10,000 delegates from 85 countries come to enjoy over 50 seminars, 25 workshop and be inspired by the 28,000 pieces of work on display.



Wunderman was founded in 1958 by Lester Wunderman, who in 1967 coined the term "Direct Marketing" Wunderman invited the Ethical Fashion Consultancy to contribute to an event on Cause Related Marketing at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in 2007.

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