How to use cause marketing to promote your brand in 2019

How to use cause marketing to promote your brand in 2019

As an ethical and sustainable business owner, you feel passionate about the causes you support and the issues you’re trying to change.

Your potential customers share that passion, making those causes the perfect connection point to get their attention, engage them in conversation and strengthen your relationship with them – ultimately turning them into paying customers.

This is known as ’cause marketing’ – and we’ve seen it done exceptionally well by brands that are passionate about their triple bottom line (people, planet and profit), and not so well when it’s not done with heart.

(Here’s why I felt the recent Iceland Christmas campaign about Palm Oil was greenwashing).

So how can you use cause marketing effectively? And how do you find opportunities to raise awareness of ethical issues through your brand?


At the start of 2018, plastic waste and recycling hit the headlines in the UK as MPs started campaigning for a 25p charge on paper coffee cups – the so called #LatteLevy.

In the end this never actually came to pass, but the Blue Planet II effect swept across the world and consumers began to move away from single use plastic, and ask brands to do the same.

Pro-active, eco-friendly brands jumped on this as an opportunity to live their values, support their customers and connect with new audiences while they were already talking about and actively engaged with the issue.

Independent coffee chain Boston Tea Party became the first chain to ban the sale of hot drinks in disposable cups. They sold branded KeepCups, introduced a loan cup scheme and even changed the wifi password in their branches to #NoExcuseForSingleUse.

This got people talking. The media featured them, customers supported them and they were even shortlisted for the Blue Patch Sustainable Innovation Award!


Keeping an eye on trends is one way to spot this kind of opportunity, but trends, news stories and even political decisions move fast – and as a small business, reacting to them can be time consuming and stressful.


Fortunately, there’s over 200 awareness days, weeks and campaigns already in the diary which could be used to promote ethical & sustainable causes in 2019.


Awareness days and causes like Fairtrade Fortnight (coming up in February!) are the perfect opportunity to tell the world what you do.

There are thousands of different ones so you need to carefully pick the right days and campaigns for your brand.

Make sure they align closely to your values and give you the chance to promote yourself, your content and your products in a way that isn’t too sales-focused. Don’t just jump on a trending hashtag for the sake of it!

The key to making the most of these dates is to plan ahead.


For example, International Straw Free Day is coming up on 3rd February.

This is a no-brainer for plastic free brands to promote themselves – especially if you’re selling bamboo, steel or glass straws, reusable cups or bottles.

But even if the connection is less obvious, if plastic-free is something you care about, you can make it work for your brand.

Perhaps you sell reusable shopping bags, or bamboo toothbrushes? Maybe your cosmetics come in plastic free packaging? On International Straw Free Day people will be talking about going straw free and cutting back on plastic, so you can use the opportunity (and the hashtag) to raise awareness of plastic pollution in other areas, and inspire them to take action.

Or, like me, you might have mixed opinions on the plastic straw debate. You could share an opinion piece on your blog or pitch to the press and offer your comment – it all brings attention back to you and your brand.


How to use awareness days

International Orangutan Day is on 19th August 2019. Palm Oil has been a hot topic in the press and major advertising campaigns in 2018, so it’s likely that more consumers will want to move away from it in the next 12 months.

If you use responsibly sourced palm oil – or no palm oil at all – in your products, this will be the perfect opportunity to raise awareness, share information and engage people with your brand.

Let’s take a closer look at how a brand committed to eliminating or responsibly sourcing palm oil might do this…

Know the issues

In this case, the facts around palm oil will make compelling content. You’ll need to clearly show how this relates to International Orangutan Day to keep it relevant, and make sure you backup your statements with facts.

In this case you’ll probably want to talk about how 80% of orangutan habitat has been destroyed in the last 20 years and how we’re destroying 300 football fields per hour for palm oil production.

These shocking statistics will grab people’s attention, get them talking and encourage them to repost and share your content.


Turn this into content

Depending on what social media channels you use, you’ll want to turn this into a series of content in advance so that when August 19th comes around you’re ready to go.

You might want to centre your content for the day around a blog post to bring more people to your website or a podcast episode to attract new listeners.

It might be a Facebook Live to engage your audience, or a series on Instagram stories.

Whatever you choose to do, you should aim to have one key piece of ‘cornerstone’ content related to the issue (like an in-depth blog post) that meets your goal – whether that’s increasing website visitors, attracting new customers, getting new followers or making more sales.

Then look at how you can promote this cornerstone content on social media with updates and information, using the awareness day hashtag (which is likely to trend if it’s a mainstream day!)

For example, a palm-oil free brand might write a blog post about ‘5 palm-oil free products to try this International Orangutan Day’ (mentioning their own products of course!), then create some social media updates with different facts about how palm oil production is destructive for wildlife and that if you want to help you should buy palm-oil free.

This way you’re raising awareness of the cause, engaging your audience, inspiring them to help by making a change and showing them how to do it (and therefore making a sale!)

Plan ahead

The key to successfully using awareness days and causes in your marketing is to plan ahead.

We’ve all seen brands fail or attract the wrong sort of attention because they’ve handled a cause insensitively, and I’m sure I’m not the only person who has let an awareness day (and great marketing opportunity!) pass me by because I failed to plan for it.


First you need to identify the right awareness days for you. That’s where our 2019 Marketing Planner comes in. It lists over 200 awareness days tailored to ethical and sustainable businesses – and took over 20 hours to research! We’ve done the hard research so you don’t have to!


Then you need to pick the ones you want to use and plan what content you’re going to create.

Inside the Marketing Planner this year you’ll find an example of the template we use to plan our content across different platforms. It’ll give you ideas for how to repurpose your content, make the most of it and plan ahead.

You’ll also find more advice on using awareness days and planning your content so you can decide what you want to do, map it out in advance and then create a to-do list so you’re well prepared.


Awareness days are also the perfect opportunity to attract media coverage for your brand, as journalists and the press will often use awareness days for inspiration, cover related stories and look for experts on relevant topics.

Major publications work around 3 months ahead, so it’s important to prepare in advance and get your pitch in early.

But don’t forget to check hashtag #JournoRequest before an awareness day (and on the day itself) to see if there’s any last minute press opportunities – that’s how I got featured in Wales Online talking about crisp packets and plastic packaging earlier this year. (Here’s my advice on how to use #JournoRequest to connect with journalists and get featured).


To really get ahead with your content this year and raise awareness of your ethical business through cause marketing, make sure you get yourself a copy of the 2019 Ethical Marketing Planner.

It lists over 200 awareness days for ethical and sustainable businesses so you can make sure you don’t miss a single opportunity.


Here’s what Rae said about her planner last year:

“I’m a freelance writer and the diary has already generated far more income than it cost to buy. Moreover, it has inspired me to pitch about some topics that I haven’t considered writing about before – as a result, I’ll be doing a guide to Fairtrade for teenagers & an ethical Mother’s Day gift guide for the same publication. So happy to be spreading the ethical word further!”


Plus, for every copy sold we’re sponsoring 1 day of education fees for a disadvantaged child in India, so by purchasing this planner and investing in your marketing, you’re also helping to send a child to school!


If you’re ready to make the most of every opportunity and really promote your brand this year, then get hold of your Marketing Planner now.


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