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5 Effective CPG Cause Marketing Campaigns in Action

Mar 18, 2022

Written By

Danielle Muller & Kelly Criswell

Your cause marketing campaigns must be effective. They have to align with your brand’s values, your customers’ values, and (when applicable) the retailer’s values. They also have to be emotive and authentic to connect with shoppers. Crafting this type of campaign is no easy task. 

When done right, CPG cause marketing campaigns can:

  • Foster committed, long-term customers. Consumers want to support brands who support the causes they care about
  • Fuse a stronger connection between your brand, consumers, and retailers (in the case of shopper cause marketing) through meaningful cause marketing activations
  • Elevate the overall ethos of your food and beverage brand in the marketplace

Not to mention giving back is simply the right thing to do when you’re a large, successful CPG company. 

We’ll look at some specific examples in a minute, but first we need to distinguish the two types of cause marketing activations you’ll need for your campaigns. Both shopper and brand cause marketing come with their own benefits, and understanding the difference will help you determine which approach is best for your campaign. 

Shopper Cause Marketing vs. Brand Cause Marketing

All CPG marketing campaigns will either be shopper marketing or brand marketing — cause marketing campaigns included. 

Shopper marketing refers to activations within a specific store with the help and cooperation of the retailer. Brand marketing, on the other hand, does not include a third party, the retailer. Instead, brand marketing campaigns happen at the company level and are rolled out regionally or nationally, not just within certain stores.

Many cause marketing campaigns use the shopper marketing model. This is advantageous because:

  • The retailer sometimes supports the campaign financially, so the CPG isn’t left to foot the entire advertising bill.
  • An in-store campaign pushes consumers to take action — buy the product — in the moment, leading to increased sales. 

But brand cause marketing shouldn’t be cast aside. It’s an excellent choice because:

  • Brand marketing is a top-of-funnel, brand awareness tactic. You need to target every level of the sales funnel for success. 
  • It builds your company’s ethos by deepening consumer connection with your brand on a larger scale.

In an ideal world, you’d have both shopper and brand cause marketing activations — or, better yet, both in one. You’d run a commercial about the cause you’re supporting (brand marketing campaign) and offer a deal related to that same cause and your product in select stores (shopper marketing campaign). 

5 CPG Cause Marketing Campaigns Worth Emulating 

Each of these recent examples demonstrates an effective approach to cause marketing. They’re a mix of shopper and brand marketing, so you can get an idea of how to craft both well. 

1. Mars Petcare Increases Walmart’s Pet Product Sales and Gives Back 

First up is a classic shopper marketing success. What makes it a success? It works for every party involved: the brand, the retailer, the charity, and the consumer. 

Walmart, the retailer, had a problem. Shoppers were coming in to purchase their home consumables, but going elsewhere to purchase their pet food. As a result, Walmart just couldn’t establish itself as a pet brand destination. 

This problem manifested in Walmart’s research and data. But Mars Petcare saw it as an opportunity. They partnered with Greater Good Charities to donate a meal to hungry pets for every qualifying pet food purchase in Walmart stores and on walmart.com. 

This Extend a Paw campaign put Walmart on the map in the pet food category. It increased sales and buoyed brand perception for Mars Petcare. It satisfied consumers’ desire for Walmart and its brands to invest more in social causes. And finally, it fed undernourished animals with 2.5 million donated meals. Again, this shopper cause marketing campaign created value for all parties involved. 

2. 7-Eleven’s Unique Social Media Contest Supports Veterans

Convenience store chain 7-Eleven has been running their annual “Fuel Your Fandom” campaign and contest during football season for years. Consumers share pictures or videos on social media with the hashtag #FuelYourFandomContest. These posts depict fans enjoying a football game with their 7-Eleven products, and a panel selects winners. 

Contest winners are taken to “Superfan Influencer Crew” boot camp in Texas where they receive training on how to build their own fan base and create social media posts that attract likes and followers. Additionally, winners receive $11,000 cash along with $1,100 in 7-Eleven store credit. 

Then, in 2021, 7-Eleven added a cause marketing twist to the campaign. One of the winning spots was reserved for a United States veteran or active reserve member. The veteran winner received the same prize as the other influencers, but this aspect of the campaign was also promoted leading up to Veterans Day with the help of sportscaster Erin Andrews. 

This is a standout, successful campaign. It’s rare to see a cause marketing initiative that specifically includes veterans. Additionally, the cause marketing portion of the campaign overlaid 7-Eleven’s typical marketing push seamlessly. 

3. Tide’s Sustainability Push Leads to Measurable Change   

Laundry detergent company Tide’s #TurnToCold campaign is a great example of brand cause marketing in action. 

The goal of #TurnToCold — and the cause portion of the initiative — was to encourage consumers to wash three out of four loads of laundry in cold water. The reason being that washing clothes in cold water cuts greenhouse gas emissions significantly. 

Tide got the word out about the campaign with their clever commercial featuring celebrity “cold callers” Ice-T and wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. 

What makes this campaign effective? For one, leveraging celebrity power is a great way to make campaigns memorable. And being memorable matters for brand marketing campaigns. You want shoppers to recall the commercial the next time they’re in the store browsing the detergent aisle, even if there’s no related shopper marketing campaign to back up the commercial’s message. 

More importantly, Tide managed to avoid greenwashing, which can be difficult with sustainability-driven initiatives. The brand pushed for meaningful consumer action that actually cuts greenhouse gas emissions instead of just talking about reduction. Finally, because it’s a brand marketing campaign, it elevates Tide’s ethos in the minds of consumers in a way that will (hopefully) stick with them long after the commercial stops airing. 

4. Kellogg’s “Feeding Reading” Campaign Offers a Tangible Solution to a Relatable Problem 

Kellogg’s does such a good job with their cause marketing campaigns, we decided to include two recent examples from the cereal and snack food CPG company. 

First, let’s talk about their “Feeding Reading” back-to-school program with retailer Meijer and publisher Random House Books. The premise of the campaign is that, for up to six qualifying purchases per shopper, consumers receive a free book. They can either keep or donate that book to a local library. 

The campaign came to life with large pallet displays and in-store point-of-sale (POS) touches as well as on the Meijer website and digital channels. 

There’s a lot to love about this cause marketing push. Namely, it’s different from typical back-to-school shopper marketing ploys. It’s highlighting an issue — literacy — that Kellogg’s consumers care about. Importantly, it’s also offering a tangible solution — not just a financial contribution — in the form of a free book. 

5. Kellogg’s Pride Month Product Proves the Brand’s Authenticity 

Last but not least on our list of impactful cause marketing campaigns: Kellogg’s partnership with retailer AHOLD Delhaize and LGBTQ+ nonprofit organization GLAAD.

To amplify and celebrate Pride Month, Kellogg’s released a special edition cereal product and packaging that was displayed in stores. A portion of cereal purchases went to nonprofits that support the LGBTQ+ community. 

Any brand can throw an athlete on a limited edition package and call it a campaign. And limited edition packaging is an effective and underutilized tool when it comes to CPG cause marketing campaigns. But Kellogg’s took it a step further by crafting a custom Pride product, too. Not only does this product and its bright, eye-catching packaging bring awareness to an important cause, it also signifies Kellogg’s commitment to that cause. They care so much about the LGBTQ+ community that they were willing to invest in an entirely new product formulation. 

Overall, the Pride Month cause marketing campaign speaks to Kellogg’s authenticity as a brand. 

Take Your Cause Marketing Campaign to the Next Level with GRO  

Cause marketing can make a real difference — both for your CPG brand and for the organizations you support. If you need help getting your campaign to be as effective as the examples here, GRO is all ears. Not only will we strategize your campaign, we’ll also create custom packaging to take your cause marketing push to the next level.

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