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Cause Marketing Resolution for 2009

This post is endorsed by 'President Barack Obama,' 'Oprah Winfrey,' 'Hillary Clinton,' 'Coldplay' and other high-ranking search terms in Google.

The hope-filled inauguration of President Barack Obama yesterday morning means that 2009 is still dewy enough that we can talk about New Year’s resolutions.

Professionally I set a series of goals each year including sales and profitability goals.

I’ve also set a grand total of one professional New Year’s resolution.

I resolve to spend more time evangelizing the advantages and benefits of cause marketing. 

In the past I have contented myself to talk about the many positives of cause marketing with clients and on this blog.

The blog is easy to find if you know the word ‘cause marketing.’ But not that many people know the expression or the ideas behind it. Google’s keyword search tool says that in December 2008 the search volume for the term cause marketing was 14,800 with another 4,400 for the search term ‘cause-related marketing’ (CRM). [Let’s be frank; Google’s keyword tool is an imperfect gauge of the esteem in which the practice is held. But nonetheless I think it’s a helpful indicator.]

By contrast Google’s search volume for the other ‘CRM’ (customer relationship management) was 823,000. And ‘sponsorship’ had a December search volume of 301,000. For ‘corporate social responsibility’ the number was 60,500 in December.

In short, after more than 25 years of cause marketing, cause marketing is still the redheaded stepchild of marketing, superseded by the newfangled like ‘search engine optimization’ (a volume of 450,000), and ‘email marketing’(301,000). Even ‘green marketing’ (22,200) outpaces cause marketing.

This widespread ignorance is born out by experience. Just yesterday I had lunch with a seasoned marketer who holds an MBA from a prominent university. We exchanged pleasantries and he asked what my specialty was. When I told him cause marketing I got a blank look until I described the oft-cited Yoplait lid example.

All this despite the fact that Carol Cone and her agency has been pounding the cause marketing drum before companies and influencers for decades. There are a number of well-respected charities that derive a substantial portion of their unrestricted funds from cause marketing. There are a number of capable agencies that specialize in cause marketing and are doing innovative, interesting work. There is a good body of academic research that demonstrates not only the effectiveness of cause marketing, but what elements make up successful campaigns.

I’m not sure, exactly, how I will meet my resolution. But I do know that one of the things I’m going to do is broaden my definition of cause marketing. In the past I preferred the term ‘cause-related marketing’ because I think it’s more precise. But now, in the interest of spreading the word about the value of relationships between causes and commerce, I’m going to use the more general ‘cause marketing’ and I’m going to embrace its non-specificity.

I’m also going to broaden what I consider cause marketing to be. I’m going to define cause marketing thusly: 

“Cause marketing is a relationship that bridges commerce and cause in a way that benefits both parties.”

In my new definition cause marketing encompasses ‘corporate giving’ (18,100) and corporate social responsibility ‘corporate citizenship’ (9,900), and corporatecharitable giving’ (40,500). In this new big tent, cause marketing can include ‘employee retention’ (27,100) green marketing and ‘employee morale’ (14,800).

All these things exist now as separately considered ideas. But with all the electrons I can muster on this blog and all influence I can exert everywhere else, my definition of cause marketing will now encircle all the things above and more.

One last point. Strictly speaking, my new definition of cause marketing would include a healthcare contract between a company and a nonprofit hospital group. Or a contact between a nonprofit sheltered workshop and a business to provide janitorial services. That’s business, not cause marketing. So I’m depending on your suggestions to help sharpen that definition. Please comment below or email me at aldenkeene at gmail dot com.


Anonymous said…
We like your definition “Cause marketing is a relationship that bridges commerce and cause in a way that benefits both parties.”
We found a new company that brings the power of network marketing to turn business into benevolence. Humanitarian service is their purpose, using a line of “do no harm” personal care products as the means to fund the projects as well as prospering their distributors. It is doing fantastic on all fronts. To learn more, check out

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