Good Business

Bruce Burtch
Marketing News
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Key Takeaways

  • Cause marketing is a tactic in which a for-profit company and a nonprofit organization form a partnership to boost sales, donations and brand awareness.
  • Outdoor gear retailer Patagonia has partnered with a number of nonprofits to ensure corporate giving is a key part of its overall marketing strategy.
  • "Success comes through a step-by-step approach, leveraging what you already have with the right partners in a combined effort to create a greater good."

​Cause marketing can boost your brand perception, but cross-sector partnerships can elevate your business​

Cause marketing—the partnership of a for-profit company and a nonprofit organization intended to increase sales, donations and brand awareness—has proven to be a highly successful marketing tactic for companies such as General Mills, Pepsi, and Procter & Gamble, to name just a few, but it’s starting to wear a little thin with consumers. When every can of soup or box of cereal is printed with a “Box Tops for Education” logo, the effect becomes progressively diluted. 

But cause marketing is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There’s a much larger opportunity for altruistic and philanthropic brand alignments with cross-sector partnerships in which multiple linkages are developed between nonprofit and for-profit organizations. The for-profit organization may provide the nonprofit with volunteers, in-kind donations, paid advisers with specialized skills, event sponsorships, board members, knowledge and best practices, office space and more. The nonprofit organization, meanwhile, may provide volunteer opportunities to enhance the for-profit employees’ job satisfaction and a deeper understanding of the needs of those employees’ community, as well as coaching and leadership experience, tax-deductible donation opportunities and much more.  

Cross-sector partnerships may or may not include a cause marketing aspect, but the marketing benefit of these partnerships can be significant and multifaceted.


Setting the Bar—or the Piton 

Patagonia Inc., the Ventura, Calif.-based retailer of outdoor clothing and gear, is a model of successful cross-sector partnerships. The company’s very fiber—literally—is fully planted in social and environmental consciousness, as reflected in its mission statement: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”    

Patagonia became an industry leader by partnering with a number of nonprofits, using only organic cotton, redefining corporate transparency, introducing Fair Trade-certified garments, and—gasp—providing incentives for its customers to repair and reuse their clothing. Remember Patagonia’s enormously successful “Don’t Buy This Jacket” Black Friday ad in 2011? The company’s environmental internship program provides that after one year of service, Patagonia employees may volunteer up to two months for an environmental nonprofit of their choosing—and earn their regular salary.​​​​​​​​​​​

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Author Bio:

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Bruce Burtch
Bruce Burtch is a cause marketing and cross-sector partnership expert, and author of Win-Win for the Greater Good.

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