Cause marketing vs purpose-driven marketing

With #metoo first gaining traction in 2006 and with the great strives it has achieved since that time and the revival of the Black Lives Matter movement (with hopefully the same positive effect in years to come) and the way the world has rallied together during our unexpected Covid-19 pandemic, humanity believes in causes that do good, that are for the betterment of society as a whole. Even if your company isn’t ready to support large movements yet, there are smaller strides that can be made at the local level.

Many businesses give back to their local community by sponsoring local middle and high school sport’s teams, donating food and necessary items to charity runs, or providing free services to those in need (like our Coding for Causes program). 

We wrote a piece not long ago entitled ‘Why it’s important to write purpose-driven content‘ that explained the importance of telling your audience the causes you support. And if your business isn’t supporting something yet–no matter how small your business is–then it’s time to start. Consumers like buying products and services from companies that give back64% of consumers would switch brands or boycott a brand they used if the brand’s values didn’t align with their own. It’s not about supporting a cause for the sake of it; it’s time to delve into why you started your company in the first place (outside of profits) and decide which ideals align with your company brand. 

Terms that often come up when discussing a company’s vision are ‘purpose-driven organization’ and ’cause marketing’. So, we’ve delved into the term ‘purpose-driven marketing’ (in the piece mentioned above) but what is ’cause marketing’? Here’s the definition of cause marketing vs purpose-driven marketing. 

What is cause marketing?

The official definition of causes marketing is that it’s a type of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in which a for-profit business seeks to increase profits and better society by aligning itself with a particular cause. Cause marketing is a company ‘doing well by doing good’. 

Cause marketing and purpose-driven marketing may seem interchangeable but cause marketing is usually short-term and campaign-driven. It’s like when a brand chooses a charitable cause for a period of, say, a month and promotes that cause during the campaign. The brand may partner with a charity they support and collect proceeds or donate proceeds via their business. 

During pride, for example, a company may donate 20% of the profits to a cause that supports the LGBTQ+ community in their local area. Or with the pandemic, a company may have donated to food banks and supported those in need when their jobs were on hold or they had suffered redundancies. These efforts, though noble, aren’t long-term business strategies. These companies, most likely, won’t continue to support and promote these causes after that period of marketing.  

There are hundreds of examples of cause marketing from Coca Cola supporting the World Wildlife Federation to save polar bears to Yoplait’s campaign from 1998-2016 where customers saved lids to support the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation during September and October each year. 

By saying cause marketing is fleeting, it might indicate there’s something wrong with supporting causes for short periods. There absolutely isn’t. It’s better to get involved than not. Some smaller companies may only have marginal profits and a short-term cause-marketing campaign can be a way for them to support a cause without committing to large sums at the outset. But after supporting smaller causes, long-term it’s better to find a purpose outside your business’s profits and aim towards a purpose-driven marketing goal. Your customers will thank you. 

What is purpose-driven marketing?

Purpose-driven marketing is a type of marketing where the brand connects with its audience on causes they both believe in. The brands messaging aligns with the customer’s beliefs and, in turn, that customer believes in and supports that brand. Purpose-driven marketing is a long-term strategy. 

Purpose-driven brands either adopt these beliefs and causes at the core of their brand at a point in time or they started that way from the very beginning (i.e. the company was founded on that belief). The core of the business focuses on giving back in some way. There may not be a specific cause per se because purpose-driven marketing can be more aspirational but the idea is to support long-term initiatives for the betterment of the whole. 

There are companies, for example, who plant trees for every product you buy. Others donate 5% of their company profits for a cause. Another brand donated its $10m in tax savings to help save the planet.

No matter what your company believes in, do it honestly and wholeheartedly. Purpose-driven companies grow three-times faster than competitors. It’s the ‘it’ thing for this year and for years to come but, more than that, giving back is always a positive, trend or no trend. Be authentic, tell your story, explain what ideas you support, and what you plan to do. Then do it. Your customer-base will support you since consumers feel that when they support companies that give back, they are giving back too. 

Many consumers feel that companies have the power to enact good in the world and their only way to gain power (besides voting) is to support companies who support purposes that they believe in too. Give your consumers something to believe in for the long-term. 

Why Key Medium chooses sustainability

Why do Key Medium choose to be sustainable and why is that part of our branding, our message, and our beliefs? 

We are part of Philadelphia’s Sustainable Business Network which aims to build a greener and more just community with a thriving economy. We also give back our time to non-profits through our Coding for Causes program, through which we have supported WINCPhiladelphia WorksPhilly Food Finder, and many other organizations in alignment with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

All of these organizations aim to give back to the community to whether it’s providing food for people in need, supporting community gardens, encouraging sustainable and safe alternate transportation (Bicycle Coalition), helping those with disabilities find employment, or empowering young women to go into non-traditional careers. Through our purpose-driven marketing and support of these organizations, we meet our aims to create a better community and be part of the world’s solutions not its problems. 

If you need help with creating a branded website and want to support us and the causes we believe in, get in touch


Elaine, an SEO Specialist and Content Writer

Elaine Frieman holds a Master’s Degree and is a UK-based professional editor, educational writer, and former marketing agency content writer where she wrote articles for disparate clients using SEO best practice. She enjoys reading, writing, walking in the countryside, traveling, spending time with other people’s cats, and going for afternoon tea.