Summer (July), 2012; Source: Marketing Power (American Marketing Association)

You need to be a subscriber to get full access to articles in the Journal of Marketing, but check out the executive summary of this article on cause-related marketing. The article’s three authors, Stefanie Rosen Robinson from North Carolina State University and Caglar Irmak and Frances Hipp of the University of South Carolina, write about cause marketing (CM) campaigns that allow the consumers to pick the causes. They suggest this new sort of consumer-selected cause-related marketing model is a new development. The authors suggest “that offering consumers choice of a cause increases their willingness to pay for products and purchase likelihood and improves consumer attitude toward the company.”

Examples of these consumer-selected cause-related marketing campaigns includes Working Assets allowing users to dedicate a portion of their telephone charges to their choice of a nonprofit working for peace, human rights, and economic justice, and Sun Trust Bank donating $100 to a nonprofit of the consumer’s choice.  

According to the study, three factors affect the content and potential success of consumer-driven cause-related marketing campaigns: collectivism, cause-brand fit, and goal proximity. The article abstract offers the following explanation:

  1. “Noncollectivists” value choice because it allows them to choose their own individual preferences. However, even “collectivists” will appreciate CM campaigns based on choice because they appreciate and value collaborative actions and are thus attracted to the notion of their choices matching others’ charitable choices.
  2. If the choice of benefitting charities is limited by the corporation’s brand, the consumer-driven CM campaign is actually less effective than allowing consumers to have a sense of more personal control. In cause marketing, giving consumers real choice and control works better.
  3. Consumers are more likely to feel positively about their moneys contributing to projects that are close to their intended goals (the “goal proximity” factor). So, hypothetically, consumers will feel better about their moneys going to a project that is 80 percent toward reaching its goal than one that is only 20 percent there and still far away. Companies might be well advised to donate the first 80 percent on their own so that consumers can think of themselves as finishing off the last 20 percent.

Nonetheless, in consumer-driven cause-related marketing, the key is designing campaigns that give consumers a strong sense of a personal role in selecting and helping causes. —Rick Cohen