How to Create a Successful Cause Marketing Campaign in 2021

By Kierra Benson - Published on March 31, 2021
A explains how to create a cause marketing campaigns

In the modern era of digital media, it is commonly assumed that the only marker for a successful marketing campaign is to go viral. Lush’s “Spy Cop” in the United Kingdom and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in America caught the attention of millions of people and went viral across Twitter. But “just like a business plan, a cause marketing campaign requires careful thought and a smart strategy,” (

It is good to attract a lot of attention, but for a campaign to truly hit the mark for a business, the message of the cause must be memorable and strike a chord with consumers to raise awareness of the social issue and for funding through donations to organizations dedicated to helping the cause. Businesses can act as a vessel for nonprofits by encouraging consumers to buy their product so that a percentage of the sales can be given to charities and other philanthropic endeavors.

( Also Read: What is Cause Marketing? )

What Makes a Successful Cause Marketing Campaign?

  • Center the organization in the cause Initiative

    Although it is good for marketing initiatives to get people talking both online and in the real world, it is important to prop the organization that a business has teamed up with.

    It is easy to lose what the main focus should be about being the hot topic of the moment, making the top trending list on Twitter, and having an influx of media influencers participating and talking about the campaign.

    For instance, during the Ice Bucket Challenge, there were murmurs from some ALS advocates that the activity of dunking a bucket of ice-cold water was beginning to overshadow what it was about in the first place, funding studies for a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

    Despite this small setback, the campaign was considered successful because it pushed the cause forward in terms of progress in finding out more about the disease.

  • Timing is everything

    Societal events can happen at a pivotal moment in which the stars seem to align. For instance, during the summer of 2020, the world was amid a global pandemic when the murder of George Floyd occurred. People were quarantined in their homes when the incident occurred, so the world’s eyes were on this police brutality case in Minneapolis.

    The organization “Black Lives Matter” along with other equality-centered organizations put together protests all across the country and around the world in support of charging the police officers responsible for Floyd’s death.

    Around the same time business showed their solidarity with Black Lives Matter by participating in what was called “#Blackout Tuesday.” On this day companies, both big and small, and ordinary citizens blacked-out their social media profiles in support of the fight against police brutality and donated money to various institutions and organizations centered around racial equality.

    The once-in-a-lifetime events in 2020 (the pandemic, the quarantine, and the 8 minute and 46-second video) created the perfect storm for the #BlackoutTuesday initiative to dominate the social media airwaves.

  • Pique the consumers’ interest

    Nothing can go viral without attention. That is a given. But, figuring out how to gain attention for a cause must include an incentive. The reason people like to support causes is that most people want to make a positive change in the world around them. By placing the main focus on the cause, people will want to take part in it in interactive ways.

    • Encourage your audience to take part in the discussion by creating an image and video-based post with captions mentioning the name of the campaign (which will often be hashtagged i.e. #SpyCop and #BlackoutTuesday).
    • Post material for the audience to distribute in the digital media space and real life. Including activities like challenges can help people feel that they are a part of the cause and making a difference.
  • Ensure that the message around the cause is clear and concise

    Having a message be short, sweet, and to the point ensures that the cause will have an expansive reach beyond philanthropic circles and established customer bases. Going viral exposes not only the cause but the businesses partnered up with organizations to a new audience. This leads to the growth in sales for businesses and growth in funding for nonprofit organizations. Know the “why” to stay on message.

  • Make sure that the audience knows the reasoning of a campaign

    An organization of a cause and a business partner may know the reason behind running a cause marketing campaign but if the audience has no idea the content of the media that they are consuming then the original message behind the cause will be lost.

    Why am I throwing a bucket of ice-cold water on my head? To spread awareness about ALS and the organization fighting to find a cure. Why am I replacing my profile picture with a Black square? I am replacing it to show solidarity with Black Lives Matter in their fight against police brutality and systematic racism against African-Americans.

  • Have the campaign be visually enticing

    As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Including photos and videos in a cause campaign post visually stimulates and appeals to different target audiences. Having a post that simply says, “We (enter business here) are partnering with (enter organization here) to spread awareness about (enter cause here).

    You can donate by purchasing our product or going directly to the nonprofit’s main website.” This is good for a caption, but it would be better and more representative if the post included a photo of employees and leaders from the business participating in a charity event headed by the organization.

    But what would be even better would be inviting members of the community to the charity event to participate in various games and activities? Taking photos of something like this could gain the attention of local media outlets.

    Having video taken from the event is even better because it would lure lurkers to hover over a post longer to see what is going on which in turn would increase interactions with the posts. Create visual content in a way that people who will see the post will want to be where the action is.

  • Make sure that your partners are on the same page

    When collaborating for a cause marketing campaign, both the business and the nonprofit must frequently communicate with each other to ensure that they have the same goals for the cause, that they agree on how to accomplish those goals via the campaign, how they will navigate social media and audience interaction during the campaign, and most importantly if the alliance is mutually beneficial for both the business and the non-profit.

    It would not make sense for a chemical company to partner up with a local green conservation organization that has a cause of reducing pollution in the air via green energy (unless the chemical plant has any plans of converting into a clean energy company…but you get my point). That could make for one awkward and conflicting campaign if not handled the right way.

  • Show the change

    Projecting the number of funds donated to a nonprofit organization or informing the media on the progress of furthering a cause motivates, not only the audience who participated in the campaign but the business and the charity as well.

    For instance, since the ice bucket challenge, over $100 million was donated to the ALS Association and the funds utilized by scientific research and studies have helped to uncover new genetic material concerning the makeup of the ALS disease. Showing the positive progress made from participating and donating to a cause motivates people to do more and to maintain connections made with both a business and a nonprofit organization.

Final Thoughts

Creating a successful cause marketing campaign comes with leaving a big impact outside of likes, shares, and interactions on social media. Planning and executing an initiative based on a partnership between a business and a nonprofit provides an opportunity for society to move the needle in the mission to eradicate issues like racism and devastating diseases.

Digital media creates a platform to be a part of making the world a better place. It is not just about increasing sales for a business or just throwing money at a problem via an organization.

It is about how cause marketing campaigns create an atmosphere of community outreach both on social media and in real life. Seeing change as it happens, no matter how slow-moving it is, motivates people to keep participating in a cause long after a campaign has ended.

It also enhances the reputation of both a business and an organization by being associated with the initiative and being seen by the public as positive trendsetters. The stuff that goes viral on social media is often based on entertainment and gossip.

By going viral for a cause, people get to learn and engage with a message. In turn, businesses become more in tune with their customer base on a more intimate level and nonprofits can showcase their accomplishments of furthering a cause.

Kierra Benson | Kierra Benson is an alumnus of the University of North Texas at Dallas with a Bachelor's degree in Communication and Technology. She previously completed an internship at a local newspaper and worked as a content creator for a small online business. Her goal is to work in the media industry in writing/editing and advertising. She has always been fascinated by how messages are marketed in the media to influence the masses and sell products.

Kierra Benson | Kierra Benson is an alumnus of the University of North Texas at Dallas with a Bachelor's degree in Communication and Technology. She previously com...

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