Cause Marketing: How Much is Enough?

$10,000, $100,000 or $1 million – how much is enough for a company to invest in a cause?

It's a question Cause Marketing Forum president, David Hessekiel, broaches in his "Marketing:causes" column this week, among other cause marketing complexities. The answer, of course, is it depends. The moment marketers try to ascribe a cause marketing "formula" from one company, product or issue to the next may be the moment authenticity goes out the window. After all, it's all arbitrary unless considered in context of the full campaign.


Forget preconceived notions, and instead, strive for a sensible ratio between marketing spend and cause investment, thinking strategically about the appropriate figure. A few factors to consider:

  • Company Size: There is a level of expectation among consumers and other stakeholders that a company will have a material contribution to a cause in line with its size and revenue.
  • Consumer Expectations: Is the company a known social leader with a reputation to maintain, or a newcomer to the space who may be examined for authenticity? If perceptions are unclear, test.
  • Scope of Program: A brief promotion in a few markets does not have the same expectations as a multi-year, global commitment.
  • Impact: What is a meaningful contribution to the issue or program? Are you helping an issue broadly or just one program? Ensure the investment is realistic to achieve desired impact and will resonate with consumers (e.g., dollars vs. units).
  • "OPM": Is the program funded solely by corporate giving or will it be driven by "OPM" or other people's money? "OPM" draws on consumer donations at the register, product sales and employee matches to benefit the cause.
  • For the complete list of factors, see "How Much is Enough? 10 Factors that Influence Your Investment in a Cause."

Ultimately, there is no magic number companies should commit to cause marketing efforts. A combination of data and intuition determines this figure, but considering these factors will help organizations assess what is right for their unique efforts. Remember: it's not just about choosing the right number – it's what you do with it that counts.

We encourage your thoughts and comments. Continue the conversation on Twitter by using #WDYSF.

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