Brands That Have Done Cause Marketing

  1. Volkswagen
  2. Miller Lite
  3. NFL
  4. Lacoste
  5. Hershey’s
  6. McDonald’s
  7. Skittles
  8. Starbucks
  9. Ben & Jerry’s
  10. Google

You see logos everywhere you go – on a road trip, scrolling on social media, waiting for the bus, watching a YouTube video. It’s almost impossible to go through your day without being exposed to marketing and branding! It’s no wonder 75% of people recognize a brand by its logo.

What’s interesting about this, however, is the logo doesn’t have to be perfect to be identifiable. Harvard Business Review did a study that showed how students recalled an approximation of the Apple logo rather than the actual logo itself.

Brands have the freedom to take risks. They can change their logo or packaging in the name of cause marketing.

What is Cause Marketing?

Cause marketing is any campaign that shows a brand’s commitment to social or environmental issues. This could be in the form of a temporary logo change to raise awareness, a donation to a nonprofit from product sales, or a co-branding partnership with a charitable organization.

What Brands Use Cause Marketing?

Uber, Kenneth Cole, and Walgreens are just some brands who have tried cause marketing. Some of these companies have ongoing campaigns, while others run brief promotions to spread an important message.

Other brands, like the ones listed here, temporarily change their logo or packaging in the name of cause marketing.


Cause: Social Distancing

Volkswagen social distancing campaign

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Volkswagen released a new logo to encourage social distancing. The “V” and “W” in their emblem were separated, and this new design was used on their website and social media channels.

Volkswagen isn’t the only company to change their logo for the cause. Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Audi, and Nike also made changes to their iconic logos in the early days of the pandemic. Sales of new vehicles were down by as much as 15% as a result of COVID-19, but Volkswagen still encouraged people to be safe.

Miller Lite

Cause: Disconnecting From Technology

Miller Lite Dark Cans for disconnecting from technology

Across all devices, the average internet user spends almost 7 hours online. That’s a little over 33% of the day! Miller Lite took a stance against this obsession with tech with limited edition black cans. The idea was to “go dark” on the internet and reconnect with friends and family.

Miller Lite partnered with more than 500 bars in 27 U.S. states to promote the campaign. The participating bars also received branded tabletop signs with QR codes that patrons could scan. If the patron succeeded in putting their phone down for 30 minutes, they received the Miller Lite Offline Can in exchange.


Cause: Breast Cancer Awareness

NFL Breast Cancer Awareness

The NFL has one of the best examples of cause marketing. Since 2009, the football league has adorned their fields and uniforms in pink to show their support for Breast Cancer Awareness.

Not counting playoffs, the NFL season lasts for 18 weeks with one “bye” week for every team. The games usually start in September and get really exciting in October, the same month as Breast Cancer Awareness. All that said, Sports Illustrated estimates that roughly 18% of the schedule is dedicated to “going pink.”


Cause: Endangered Animals

Lacoste changes crocodile to bring awareness to endangered animals

In 2018, Lacoste temporarily changed from their crocodile to 10 threatened animals to help raise awareness about endangered species. Animals like turtles, dolphins, and rhinos were embroidered on the front of the brand’s famous polo shirts.

Lacoste’s line of endangered species were center stage at Paris Fashion Week. Following the show, the polos were sold for $183 apiece and all proceeds went to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).


Cause: Female Empowerment

Hershey's she and her wrappers

Creative women don’t always get credit for their work, so Hershey’s took it into their own hands. In 2020, each chocolate had a unique wrapper featuring a female musician, illustrator, or artists in Brazil. “Her” or “She” was also highlighted in the brand name.

The campaign works because Hershey’s practices what they preach. At the time of launch, 52% of global leadership at Hershey’s was female. The brand also topped Forbes list of the “World’s Top Female Friendly Companies.”


Cause: International Women’s Day

McDonald's turns sign upside down for International Women's Day

You can’t drive around without seeing the iconic golden arches on the side of the road. To honor International Women’s Day in 2018, however, the famous McDonald’s logo was briefly turned upside down into a “W.”  

100 McDonald’s locations in the U.S. took part in the campaign. They flipped the sign outside of the building, updated the logo on their social media channels, and supplied their employees with branded “W” shirts to wear as uniforms. 6 out of 10 McDonald’s managers were female in 2018, and this temporary logo change was just a small way to show them appreciation.


Cause: Pride Month

Skittles gray packages for Pride Month

“Taste the Rainbow” has been the slogan for Skittles for over 25 years, so it only made sense of the candy brand to support Pride Month. The company helped raise awareness by switching up their packaging in 2017.

Skittles left the rainbow behind in favor of a monochrome color scheme. Inside of each pack, were all-white Skittles. The idea was for the parades and LGBTQ causes to take center stage.


Cause: Nonprofit Funding

Starbucks Red Cup Cheer campaign

The holiday season is a time of giving, so to encourage more donations to worthwhile causes, Starbucks did the Red Cup Cheer campaign in Europe. Nonprofits could participate and show their support by using the hashtag #RedCupCheer.

200 charities in France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Austria received a portion of Starbucks sales throughout December 2016. Refugees, people affected by natural disasters, the homeless, and disabled children all were helped by this campaign.

Ben & Jersey’s

Cause: Empowering Voters

Ben & Jerry's Empower Mint

Surprisingly, close to 100 million Americans didn’t vote in 2016. Ben & Jerry’s was one brand that tried to get more U.S. citizens to the booths by releasing a temporary flavor – Empower Mint.

The belief behind Empower Mint is that “voting gives everyone a taste of empowerment.” People couldn’t help but be inspired after taking a bite of this delicious ice cream, which had a peppermint flavor mixed with fudge brownie chunks and fudge swirl. Yum!


Cause: Earth Day

Google Earth Day doodle

Google Doodles have been used since 1998. The first one commemorated the Burning Man festival in Nevada, and since then, the search engine has honored many important events, causes, and holidays. In 2022, they took it the next level with this interactive bee logo for Earth Day.

People are afraid of bees, but these tiny insects are actually very important to our ecosystem. In fact, we need bees to pollinate the trees and flowers we use for food. This Google logo doesn’t solve the problem of the decreasing bee population, but it does help internet users become more knowledgeable.

How Effective is Cause Marketing?

does cause marketing work

91% of consumers are willing to switch to a brand that supports a good cause if the price and quality are comparable. Cause marketing is an effective way for a business to align themselves with the issues that matter.

Of course, this form of marketing isn’t without its criticisms. According to Kimberly Taylor, a marketing professor at Florida International University, “consumers may begin to question if you are appearing to do something good when it’s really just benefiting your company in the end.”

Overall, cause marketing is a fine line to walk, but worth pursuing if your brand is authentically supporting an issue because you care. It shouldn’t be done just because you want the good publicity and profits from jumping on a societal movement.

Final Thoughts

80% of consumers believe that we’ll start to see real change when brands address issues that matter. A quick update to your logo design or packaging for a temporary cause marketing campaign isn’t going to stop wars or cure diseases, but it does show that your company cares about real world concerns.

You could make a real difference through cause marketing, especially if your campaign gets people talking. It’s even better if it encourages donations to a worthwhile cause. Just be sure your intentions are pure, and you can definitely give this marketing strategy a try!


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