Cause Marketing and Breaking Through to Young Consumers

The weight of the current social climate is creating a significant impression on the consumer behavior of young consumers, particularly Generation ZGen Z members, which is roughly defined as people born between 1995 and 2010, have adopted a consumer behavior that is based in uniqueness, access, and ethical concern 

Body positivity, environmental protection, racial injustice, gender inequality, animal welfare and dozens of other hot button topics have evolved into causes that young people are weaving into the fabric of their identity. And they are expecting brands to do the same. 

A study by DoSomething Strategic states two-thirds of young consumers report that an association with aa social cause they support improves their outlook on a brand. Of the same participants, 58% also stated such an association could lead them to make a purchase. 

In order to succeed with young consumers today and prep for upcoming generations, brands need to adapt to the ever-growing trend of aligning with a social cause or movement, commonly known as cause marketing. Cause marketing, if done correctly, can yield customer loyalty, increased profits, and societal benefits. 

But therein lies the problem for many companies, how do you effectively implement cause marketing strategies? Only 12% of young consumers can call to mind associations between brands they know and a cause or movement without the help of a memory aid. Researchers claim that the issue is not with cause marketing as a concept or strategy, it is simply that most brands are not employing the most effective tactics.  

For smaller companies, it may feel as if executing cause marketing successfully is too big an undertaking and that they are better off staying neutral or that big companies like Nike, Savage x Fenty, Dove, Covergirl, Aerie, and others have cornered the market on backing movementsBut that is not the case, small and/or local companies are more than capable of succeeding in cause marketing. Gen Z consumers will flock to brands that display genuine concern for the cause they support. 

According to the research in DoSomething Strategic’s report, there are three methods that will improve a company’s cause marketing strategy in turn snagging the attention and loyalty of young consumers: be unique, be focused, be provocative.  

Be Unique 

To be unique take a different angle in your brand category. There are no rules saying a company must align with a cause directly related to their business. In fact, that can sometimes feel ingenuine to consumers and interpreted as selfish, direct marketing. Covergirl, a cosmetics company, managed to stand out by focusing on LGBTQ+ representation, appointing their first Cover Boy in 2016.  

Smaller businesses can follow suit by determining causes that matter to their consumers and will show them that they matter to your brand but aren’t necessarily hand in hand with the business. For instance, A gym can support the #MeToo movement instead of just physical wellness by offering self-defense classes. The possibilities are endless in the realm of cause marketing and the more creative or personal to your customers you get, the better. 



Be Focused 

Once you pick a cause that is meaningful to your business and your customers, remain focused on it. Young consumers arent fans of wishy-washy support, they want to know your business is authentic and has a legitimate interest in the movement it backs. Use it across multiple campaigns and make It as much a part of your brand as you see fit. 

East End Market, a Winter Park business and former client of Findsome & Winmore, has consistently been one of the most outspoken supporters of sustainable food systems and the Good Food movement in its’ area, incorporating it into everything they do. For years the community has associatethem with this cause, which earns them respect, loyalty, and business from locals. 


Be Provocative 

A method that many businesses shy away from is being provocative by choosing a cause that has the potential to stir up some controversy. If it makes sense for your company’s mission and is something you know your customers feel passionately about, the risk can be well worth it. Patagonia, a California brand that carries high-end outdoor wear, is well known for its stance on environmental protection and was very vocal about their stance when the government announced a plan to drastically reduce the land coverage of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. This move, which became very political, resulted in massive amounts of support from consumers because of how authentic and true to Patagonia’s message it was. 

For smaller business, getting provocative might not always be the best path to head down, so think extensively about your mission and audience before determining if it’s a smart choice for you. 


At the end of the day, the most important thing to young consumers is that the brands they are supporting are ethical and backing the causes they care about in some capacity. If you find the right message for you and your business and carry on speaking and acting on it loudly and consistently, you will speak to young consumers. The desire to consume in a socially responsible manner is not going away anytime soon and as Gen Z continues to grow up, implementing tactics such as those listed above will become increasingly important to brands in every category.