From the red Dell laptops for AIDS awareness to pink Nike high-tops for breast cancer research, more companies are embracing social causes as ways of helping themselves and others. Such cause-related marketing generally produces win-win outcomes: The for-profit companies generate goodwill and earnings, while the nonprofit causes share in income they may not otherwise have seen.
Granted, some cause-related marketing slips below the floor of decency. For instance, when a for-profit company donates to a worthy cause but then spends even more money on advertising to tell others the good it’s done, or when a nonprofit organization misappropriates the gifts it receives.
These unusual cases aside, the notion that cause-related marketing tends to produce mutual benefit does not mean that all of such benevolence is equally good. From the for-profit partner’s perspective, some cause-related marketing practices are better than others. The difference tends to be a function of how strategically a firm approaches its philanthropy, which can be separated into three distinct categories of cause-related marketing: Good, Better and Best.
Good cause-related marketing