“Cause marketing” or cause-related marketing refers to a style of marketing that revolves around cooperative efforts of a for-profit business and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit. Cause marketing differs from philanthropy, as the latter usually is a specific donation that is tax-deductible, where cause marketing is a marketing relationship not based on a donation.

Cause marketing can take on many forms, which includes product, service, or transaction-based promotions. For business, some of the possible benefits of cause marketing include positive public relations, improved customer relations, additional marketing opportunities, and making more money.



Toms marketing 

TOMS represents cause marketing with their “one-for-one” business model, where they promise to deliver a pair of free, new shoes to a child in need for every sale they make. After success with this initial initiative, Tom launched a new campaign “One Day Without Shoes”, which TOMS encouraged people to post a photo on Instagram of their bare feet. For each unique photo posted, TOMS committed to give a new pair of shoes to child in need.


Cause marketing is just one of many ways to drive your marketing. Get our free guide: 30 Lead Generation Tips and Tricks for more ideas.


"ONE-for-one" business model

We all know many large companies that participate in cause marketing, but the one that is often at the top of people’s minds is TOMS shoes. TOMS was founded in 2006 and boasts a business model that promotes giving back. Their model is referred to as the “one-for-one concept” where they promise to deliver a pair of free, new shoes to a child in need for every sale of their retail product.

The model is not only successful but also allows for the TOMS to both give back to less fortunate people AND generate profit/good public relations. The “one-for-one” business model has inspired other companies as well. Multiple companies have been created around a similar concept, an example of one being Solo Eyewear, which performs an eye surgery for each pair of sunglasses sold.



"one day without shoes" 

Even with such great success, TOMS has gone even further out of its way to help the less fortunate. To help celebrate its nine year anniversary, TOMS unveiled its marketing initiative “One Day Without Shoes” in an effort to raise awareness for children’s health and education.

TOMS used the social media platform Instagram to push the initiative, saying that for every photo of bare feet tagged, they will give a new pair of shoes to a child in need. Unlike the previous model, purchase of TOMS is not required for participation. This initiative is unique because it allows for people outside of TOMS’ target market to help contribute the effort.

This initiative is truly selfless by TOMS, although they may receive positive exposure as a result of their effort, they are not only willing to donate shoes, but they are not requiring that a purchase triggers it. Essentially, they are giving individuals the opportunity to help donate a pair of shoes for just simply taking a picture of their feet.



What is next?

As TOMS’ original business model “one-for-one” bloomed and inspired other companies to adopt similar models, it is interesting to see if these same companies or others will follow TOMS on their most recent initiative. Additionally, it will be interesting to see what the next forms of “cause marketing” TOMS will unveil, and how they continue to create awareness for the less fortunate. This marketing is a great example of marketing for a selfless purpose, not for individual profit.

Cause marketing is just one of many ways to drive your marketing. Get our free guide: 30 Lead Generation Tips and Tricks for more ideas.

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Originally published November 13, 2016, updated April 23, 2018
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