When you align your brand values with a cause, you can make your brand more meaningful.
78% of consumers believe that brands should do more than just make money, and that they should also have a positive impact on society. More and more consumers (especially Gen Z and Millennials) are purchasing products from brands that have a positive impact.
But the brands who appeal to conscious consumers the best are the ones that align their brand values with a specific cause. This way, their positive impact feels like a natural extension of the brand—rather than just slapping on some corporate donations in a feeble attempt to pander to conscious consumers.
Here’s everything you need to know about choosing the right cause and making it a natural part of your brand.
What are brand values?
Brand values are what your brand stands for and prioritizes above all else. Your brand values should be intrinsic to your products and also something that your entire team can stand behind. Most brands have 4 – 6 core brand values.
If people believe they share values with a company they will stay loyal to the brand. – Howard Schultz
List of brand values
Not sure what your brand values should be? Brand consultant Lisa Furze put together a list of 200 different brand values.
Here are just a few from that list to get you started:
Your brand values should be non-negotiable. Your brand won’t create any product, conduct any campaign, or make any hire that goes against these brand values. Instead, your brand values will serve as a guiding light for everything you do.
Why brand values are changing to include causes
For many companies, brand values are no longer just about how they design their products or speak to their customers. Brand values are now also about giving back.
60% of consumers believe that when brands begin to address social justice issues, we’ll be able to see real change. And 62% believe that cause marketing can help to normalize social justice issues. Meanwhile, 77% of consumers prefer to shop with brands that are environmentally responsible.
The currency of universal values makes brands innately shareable. – Simon Mainwaring
When you have strong and clear brand values, customers will be more likely to share about your brand online and recommend you directly to a friend.
Just think about it. “I got this new soft sweater from a company with a low water and carbon impact” sounds a lot better to a conscious consumer than “I got this new soft sweater.”
How to choose the right causes
You need to align your brand with a cause that fits your values, and hopefully can be tied to your products in a meaningful way too.
Start with a strong understanding of your brand values, and then choose causes that match up. But what causes should you pick?
Our suggestion is to check out the United Nations 17 Goals for Sustainable Development. The goals include not only environmental sustainability but also social equity and development.
By choosing a cause that matches the UN 17, you’re choosing a UN-approved cause—meaning one that has been vetted and is known to be critical for the planet and humanity.
- No poverty
- Zero hunger
- Good health and well-being
- Quality education
- Gender equality
- Clean water and sanitation
- Affordable and clean energy
- Decent work and economic growth
- Industry, innovation, and infrastructure
- Reduced inequalities
- Sustainable development cities and communities
- Responsible consumption and production
- Climate action
- Life below water
- Life on land
- Peace, justice, and strong institutions
- Partnerships for the goals (strengthen partnerships related to the other 16)
You don’t have to state on your website that your company is working towards a UN goal. Rather, you can just use these goals as inspiration. Of course, if you want to include messaging on your website about the UN goal(s) that your company aligns with, you absolutely can.
Not every important cause is in the UN 17, however. Body positivity and mental health destigmatization are very important causes too.
Most common donation structures for giving to your causes
When you’ve chosen a cause that matches your brand perfectly, one of the next steps is to start donating to the cause.
Here are common ways that purpose-led brands give back:
You can use donation incentive platform Givz to reward customers with a flat-rate donation when they make a qualifying purchase. For example, Kencko used Givz to offer a $50 donation to the customer’s organization of choice after subscribing to a 60 pack of their smoothies.
You can also donate to aligned causes through one-to-one giving. Of course, Toms and Warby Parker are renowned for using this method. But there are plenty of other smaller brands that do this as well. For example, Bixbee gives one backpack for each purchase. Plus, their backpacks feature a unique ergonomic design, making them healthier for every child who receives one, whether via purchase or donation.
Percentage of sales
Many companies donate a percentage of sales. This amount might be 1%, 5%, or even 10% of sales. Klean Kanteen donates 1% of all sales to the organization 1% For the Planet.
Percentage of profits
Instead of donating a percentage of sales, you could donate a percentage of profits. Sock company Fazl donates 50% of their profits to orphanages in India. Plus, their socks are knitted by Indian women, and the company is dedicated to fair trade practices.
Another way to give back to aligned causes is to create specific products or product lines whose proceeds will be donated. You could give 100% of the sales of that product or 100% of the profits for that product. Lush’s Charity Pot body lotion gives 100% of sales to small, grassroots non-profits.
How to align your products with your cause
Giving is critical. But it’s not the only way to align your brand with a cause. You can also align your products to your cause. This makes all of the giving and cause-related marketing you do a lot more authentic.
Later, we’ll talk about diversity and inclusion as it relates to your marketing. But for now, let’s consider it from a product perspective. If you value social issues, you’ll want to make sure that your products work for all people, or for underserved communities specifically.
Old Navy has taken away higher pricing from its plus-size clothes and is also ensuring that every item they make will be produced in every size.
Bodequality. You size got even better. All women’s styles are now in size 0 – 30, XS – 4X, with no difference in price & no special sections.
Conscious consumers care about where your products come from. You need to consider the environmental impact and the social impact of your products and their materials. Loli, a skincare company and customer of Givz, creates products that are waste free, water free, toxin free, trash free, and slavery free.
The longevity of your products is important to consumers who care about the environment. How can you make your products and packaging reusable? How can you extend their shelf life? For example, Blueland’s soap bottles only need to be purchased once. Then they can be refilled with soap tablets and tap water.
Packaging is very important to environmentally conscious consumers. They want to see packaging that is at the very least recyclable, but preferably biodegradable. They also want unnecessary packaging to be eliminated.
Airplant Gardens, an airplant subscription box, ships an airplant each month in a biodegradable box that includes a pull-away stand that can be used until the airplant has its permanent home. They also clearly state this advantage on their website.
How to communicate your brand values
The way you communicate your core values can make the causes you support feel authentic and natural, and create a cohesive brand.
Here are some essential factors to keep in mind.
Brand style and messaging
Blueland’s products are all cleaning related and they reduce single-use plastic bottles, so it makes sense that the company’s branding is all clean, blue, and fresh.
Diversity and inclusion in marketing
Above, we discussed inclusion in your products. This is also critical in your marketing. Tarte Cosmetics does a great job of this with their Instagram account. They make sure to use a diverse range of models and influencers. And when they feature their products, they also ensure to include a range of skin tones, or colors that suit different skin tones.
Corporate social responsibility communications
Your brand values should emanate from every page on your website. But you’ll also want a dedicated page where you discuss your corporate social responsibility (CSR) and your brand values. In this example from Venture Foods, the company shares their three pillars for CSR: products, people, and planet.
Here are some different ways to name this page on your website, and its URL:
- Corporate social responsibility
- Our promise
- Our pledge
- Our causes
- Giving back
Partnerships, advertising, and sponsorships
When aligning your brand with a cause, you need to be very mindful of any company that you partner with.
Monitoring partnerships isn’t black and white, however. Blueland created a line of products in partnership with Disney. At first glance, you wouldn’t think of Disney as a sustainable company, so this might seem like an unaligned partnership. However, Blueland’s mission is to eliminate single-waste plastic. By getting kids (and adult Disney lovers) on board, they can better satisfy this mission.
Here are some of the different types of partnerships you need to monitor with your causes in mind:
- Brand partnerships
- Ad tech platforms and the publications they monetize
- Content and publications you sponsor directly
- Organizations you sponsor
Your personal core values define who you are, and a company’s core values ultimately define the company’s character and brand. For individuals, character is destiny. For organizations, culture is destiny. – Tony Hsieh
5 examples of brands whose values align with their causes
A lot goes into building a brand. It’s a non-stop evolution.
For more inspiration on aligning your brand values with causes, check out these companies:
Patagonia, long known for its CSR efforts, continues to kick things up a notch. They have a new stand-out program called Patagonia Action Works that connects volunteers with grassroots organizations.
And the company also works on lowering its carbon footprint when it comes to manufacturing and shipping. They also have a Worn Wear program which helps customers buy and trade-in previously used Patagonia products.
Sakara, a nutrition company that offers a meal delivery service and helpful content, prioritizes two main causes: sustainability and health.
Here are a couple of examples of how Sakara communicates about their donation incentives on their website and Instagram:
Another Givz customer, Terez, doesn’t have specific causes per se. However, they still do a great job of aligning their brand with timely causes.
For example, for Pride Month, they set up a donation incentive to donate $25 for any order over $200. On the giving page, they featured LGBTQ+ organizations. And on the marketing side, they featured a rainbow outfit.
Since the brand always offers big, bold colors, the Pride-related donation incentive felt authentic instead of gimmicky.
This is why you should always tie your giving back to your brand. If one of your values is boldness, then you can give to related causes, such as helping disadvantaged people to have a voice, or speaking out against discrimination, or celebrating communities that are targeted with hate.
Bombas is a brand that offers one-to-one giving. For every item purchased, a piece of clothing is donated to a homeless shelter in the US. Their core offering is socks, but they’ve expanded to underwear and t-shirts as well.
At first, it might be hard to think about what sort of organization to give to if you sell socks. But socks can be cozy and comforting. What’s more cozy and comforting than home? So many people don’t have that comfort, because they are homeless. By following this train of thought, we can see how Bombas socks connect with homelessness. What’s more, socks and underwear are essential items of clothing that everyone needs.
Use this as an example to help you take the meaning of your product even deeper. What does your product truly provide? What communities locally or globally are without access to this product? By providing people with this product, what is the real impact?
With its all-wheel-drive vehicles and rugged styling, Suburu is a favorite amongst outdoor adventurers and people who live rurally. This audience cares deeply about the environment and its preservation. Suburu became America’s first Zero Landfill automaker. All of their waste is either reused or recycled.
Ask yourself how can you take what your audience already cares about and do more for that cause? Purpose-driven companies are the future.