Using a Cause for Advertising & Marketing

causes marketing

Cause Marketing is not new, actually it have seen a huge growth since mid 2014.
Like emotional advertising, the cause marketing appeal to the emotional brain, in other words it’s also another kind of emotional manipulation.
But unlike the emotional advertising mentioned above, cause advertising actually help a cause.
It’s true that the benefit for the company outweigh by far the benefit for the cause, but sometimes the association can be a good deal for the cause as well.

Great examples of Cause Marketing:

  • American Express Statue of Liberty Restoration (1983):  American Express offered to contribute 1 cent for each card transaction and $1 for each new card issued during a three-month period to restore the statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
    The offer was backed by a huge media campaign, and successfully raised $1.7 million.
    This gave huge exposure to American Express business and probably led to the creation of this new field in marketing, “the cause marketing“.
  • Yoplait Save Lids to Save Lives (1999 to present): Yoplait offered to donate 10 cents to G. Komen for the Cure, breast cancer foundation, for each sticky lid mailed, it quickly became one of America’s best-known breast cancer campaigns. And consumers saved and mailed millions of sticky lids to support Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Since, Yoplait have continually refined the initiative and supported it with paid and earned media. The campaign have raised to date more than $26 million.
  •  1,000 Playgrounds in 1,000 Days (2005 to 2008): The Home Depot and KaBOOM offered to build within 1000 days, 1000 playgrounds for kids. Relying on employee volunteerism with this national three-year program they built play grounds for kids within walking distance of their homes.
  • Live Strong Bracelet (2004 to present): Nike teamed up with Lance Armstrong Foundation to raise funds for Armstrong’s cancer charity, this was done by selling yellow rubber bands for $1 each, the campaign was a success and the bands were worn by a lot of people. The campaign have raised to date more than $70 million.

Taking Advantage of Cause Marketing:

The last few years more and more companies and corporations, thought of taking advantage of cause marketing, without really offering anything of value, for the causes they pretend they support, i will take a few examples of the latest of these campaigns, there’s a lot, but i will just select a couple of the recent ones.

  1. The Hypocrites: Are the companies that pretend to support an idea, but in reality they don’t, they just want you to think that they are doing so, to push you to unconsciously like their brand more.
    Here’s an example: The Budweiser 2016 SuperBowl Ad . In this specific example, getting drunk means more beer sales, thus the message clearly contradicts the interest of the company …. Or does it? No, not really because the small negative effect this ad will do on sales will be compensated by the increase of sales due to : 1- Brand loyalty increase  2- Less hard alcohol more beer, when driving.
  2. The Dull: The companies that just embrace a common idea, and transform it into a cause.
    Here’s an example: The Colgate 2016 Super Bowl Ad . In this specific example, turning off the faucet is a logical behavior that most adult do, so unless this is addressed for kids, it really isn’t doing much.
  3. The Exploiters: The companies that are just taking advantage of “causes” for their own selfish and unethical gains.
    Here’s an example: PornHub marketing stunts & campaigns, like “Save the Whales”, where they pledged to donate 1 cent for every 2,000 videos viewed on their site between February 8 to 29. These stunts are controversial and click bait material, which make many publications go through with them.

Advertising : The Rational & Emotional Appeal

You think you figured out advertising?

You think they show you a pretty girl (see: sex sells article), then enumerate the features of a product or a service and that’s it…
You’re wrong!

A quick look at Superbowl ads or TV and Printed ads reveal a hidden element, you realize that the above formula is not as simple as it seams, and that in most cases the ads include elements that are not related to the product/service. And if you dig a bit deeper, you notice a sort of psychological manipulation taking place (that’s the real advertising at work ).

In advertising, businesses goal when they create advertisements for magazines, newspapers, television, radio, or online,  is to convince consumers to purchase a specific product or service. To do so, they rely mainly on 2 common marketing approaches,  the Rational Appeal and the Emotional Appeal.
(Reputation appeal will be discussed another time).

Advertising : The Rational & Emotional Appeal

In every descent advertising spot or campaign, there’s either a rational appeal or an emotional appeal, and most often both.
The Form might vary, they might present the idea in a sexual way, in a humorous way, in a serious way or any other approach / Form (by authority, popularity, price, novelty etc … ), but to persuade you they need to access your emotional or rational brain or both by either Emotionally Appealing to you or Rationally doing it:

The Emotional Appeal:

By emotional appeal, we do not mean the recent emotional video advertising trend (which are basically emotionally supercharged videos with one objective: make you cry, and share, often the subject is very weakly related to the product or service, see examples here).

Emotional Appeal, is a method of persuasion that’s designed to create an emotional response. They are considered fallacies, or errors in reasoning, because they manipulate emotions in an audience, by convincing the audience that the statements that were presented are true; solely by inducing emotional stimulation such as fear, pity and joy.
Emotional Appeal encompasses several logical fallacies, including appeal to consequences, appeal to fear, appeal to flattery, appeal to pity, appeal to ridicule, appeal to spite, and wishful thinking.

The top ten emotions inspired by the most viral content are:

  1. Amusement
  2. Interest
  3. Surprise
  4. Happiness
  5. Delight
  6. Pleasure
  7. Joy
  8. Hope
  9. Affection
  10. Excitement

Analysis of data from the IPA (the UK-based Institute of Practitioners in Advertising), which contains 1400 case studies of successful advertising campaigns submitted for the IPA Effectiveness Award competition over the last three decades,  indicated that emotional appeals tend to be 2x more effective than rational, even more effective than the combined elements of both rational and emotional appeals.


Examples of Emotional Appeal:

wwf emotional appeal

Other examples of emotional appeal, could be:
– showing you slim girls to sell diet product,
– showing you a burglary to sell you an alarm system,
– show you successful person to convince you to join a specific university,
– showing competing products failing to do the job,
– baby dolphins are dying because of plastic bags you throw away,


The Rational Appeal:

This method of persuasion, appeal to your logic to choose a product or service, rationally based on the product’s quality and usefulness. This is usually achieved by stating the product’s benefits, performing a product demonstration or citing facts or statistics.
It is is much easier to present, as it requires much less creativity than the emotional appeal.

Examples of Rational Appeal:

+ showing you a the calories and nutritive value of a diet product,
+ showing you specifications about an alarm system,
+ Giving you the stats about average salary of people graduating from a specific university,
+ showing you a product, that is 120% larger than competitor and for half the price,
+ Giving you stats about the damage caused by plastic bags,


What to choose?  Rational or Emotional Appeal ? Comparison,

It depends, on many factors,
1- Audience: see below.
2- Message: short/long term …
3- Team behind the Ad /budget: Emotional appeal is more complex, and can backfire, thus require professional teams and thus higher budgets.
But, that doesn’t mean Emotional appeal is beyond the scope of small businesses, here’s an example of the subtle difference in advertising, using both techniques:
An Ad using rational Appeal for cleaning product : show the product in use, then explains how it cleans better than competing brands and costs less.
An Ad using emotional Appeal for the same product : emphasizes the ease of cleaning, the hassle-free experience and the environmental benefits it offers.


Audience: Men VS Women:

Depending on your target audience, the Emotional Appeal can be more or less effective, according to the study mentioned above, rational appeal is less effective than the emotional one.

Understand the difference in targeting genders , based on biological differences:

  • Emotional Approach: Women typically have a larger limbic system than men, which makes them more in touch and expressive with their emotions.  Women are usually more empathic and comprehensive in thinking, while men focus on exact issues and disregard impertinent information.  Men have a difficult time understanding emotions not explicitly verbalized but can think more logically, while women have a more wholesome view of thinking & understanding but their emotions can sometimes influence decisions.
  • Rational Approach: A brain area called the “Inferior-Parietal Lobule (IPL)” is normally larger in men than women.  This area is thought to control mathematical processes, which explains why men typically can perform mathematical tasks better than women.

Thus, if the target audience is women, then they will be even more receptive to emotional appeal than average, and if the target audience is men, they might be more receptive to rational appeal than average.
This might be the reason why emotionally appealing ads are more effective, due to the simple reason that in shopping women have a much higher value, as they often spend up to 2x the time doing the shopping, and they often buy not only for themselves but for the entire family.