Can Print Improve Cause Marketing?

By | February 6, 2012

Cause marketing is a well-minded marketing initiative that connects the cause of non-profit organizations with the reach and audience of businesses to create a mutually beneficial relationship. The strength in this approach is the business’ ability to provide greater visibility to the non-profit and to capitalize on people’s point of purchase decisions. Non-profits benefit from cause marketing through the ability to share their message with larger audiences and to solicit donations and support from these audiences. The business benefits from a positive brand reputation through the association with a non-profit organization. It’s a win-win situation.

Cause marketing can take a few different forms. Think of pink Yoplait’s “Save Lids and Save Lives” program that benefits the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Another popular campaign is Project Red at the Gap where proceeds from sales benefit The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis & Malaria. While these are all highly successful and integrated campaigns, others are not quite so innovative.

When checking out at the grocery store, I’ve been offered tickets to donate $1, $3, or $5 to help feed a child. Maybe I’m just an evil person because I know this is a great cause, but nothing about the offer compels me make this donation. It’s just another way in which people are constantly asked for money. Another example are the tear-off pieces of paper that you can write your name on and post on a wall in return for a $1 donation to some specific cause. While I like the idea of showing solidarity in support through the arrangement of papers on the wall – this is still not something that really inspires me or moves me to act. Yes, it’s easy (and that’s part of the success with point-of-purchase cause marketing), but it’s not compelling.

This is where I can envision an opportunity for print excellence to excite the world of cause marketing. Marketing service providers and print shops are so skilled at creating promotional items that you want to pick up and immerse yourself in. Why not tap into this excellence to promote the non-profit world?

Here’s what I’m thinking… Imagine waiting in line at the grocery store and instead of leafing through a tabloid magazine, you pick up a perfectly bound book complete with full color photos on fresh, glossy paper illustrating the plight of Tigers in Eastern Asia or a struggling village in Libya. Would you be motivated to add $1 to your grocery bill to help this cause? I imagine this book would move you to act much more than a paper-wrapped can or a simple graphic tear-off paper begging your donation. (Of course, the grocery store would want to secure the photo book to the check out area, but I’m sure that is possible).

Or what if when you donated to a cause, instead of receiving a tear-off paper, you received a glossy postcard with an image of those tigers or village residents? The donor could then mail this postcard to a friend or relative and essentially say, “I just donated to XYZ cause at XYZ store. Stop by XYZ so you can support this cause, too! Or visit for more information and to activate your support.” Now, not only has this postcard effectively solicited a donation, it has also communicated the cause to another individual, hopefully prompting their visit to the store and ultimate donation.

Personally, I love the idea of cause marketing. Maybe this post is optimistic, but I’d love to see more creative tactics and I know print can help create more impactful communications. In the end, it’s all about reaching customers in just a way to compel their support of the non-profit and I’m positive that print creativity can do just that.

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2 thoughts on “Can Print Improve Cause Marketing?

  1. James Haidos


    Brilliant piece. A genuine way of using print in a growing social media world. Where once ink and paper are considered cache, a tangible way to increase awareness of social issues.

  2. Nicole Schappert Post author

    Thanks James! There’s something powerful about printed pieces and using that power to connect people to a social cause can be just the boost that some non-profits need.

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