How to Avoid Common Pitfalls When Cause Marketing

May 2022

In the last five years, belief-driven buying has become the new normal. Twenty years ago, brands were expected to stay out of social or moral conversations; consumers now make purchasing decisions based on brand names that align with their personal beliefs. With these considerations in mind, it makes sense that many businesses are aligning their marketing strategy with their social responsibility efforts. Customers are more likely to repurchase if they can feel good about the purchases they’re making. The flip-side of the coin comes when a consumer’s desire to do good comes with increased skepticism.

Recent news makes it clear that if a companies’ claims about their social responsibility are not perceived to align with the companies’ real-life practices and values – an action sometimes described as “virtue signaling” – consumers will view the company in a negative light. Belief-driven consumers want their dollars to support good causes, but more than that (for better or worse) they value authenticity. Your cause marketing strategy benefits everyone when it is based in compassion and commitment, rather than chasing opportunities for clicks.

How to Avoid Common Pitfalls When Cause Marketing

Commit to a Cause

A marketing strategy is a commitment to a brand voice and message that is, at least, semi-permanent. Cause marketing is no different. Your cause should not be a chase toward the latest social cause, but a deeply established and genuine commitment. Pick a cause that matches the values of your brand. When in doubt, ask your employees what they value. Patterns may emerge.

Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk

Be transparent about how your values are incorporated into your business, in spheres both internally and front-facing. If your strategy includes making claims about how funds will be donated, or how principles will be incorporated, follow through with those commitments. Your customers will sniff any dishonesty immediately.

Own Up to Shortcomings

People change, and so can businesses. If your business wishes to support a cause, and yet has a poor track-record, suddenly offering lip-service to the cause may go over poorly with customers. Owning up to past shortcomings and rectifying the issues can go a long way in bridging the gap.


Just like individuals, businesses are able to operate more effectively in the world when they have a healthy sense of awareness of both themselves and the people around them. Take the time to listen to conversations happening around your chosen cause, seek out professional experts in the field, and respond with intelligence and understanding.


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