How Cause-Related Social Marketing Drives Results for CPG Brands

Opinion: Cause-related marketing requires careful planning

When it comes to driving engagement on social media, auto brands just need to post stunning pictures of their latest models to roll off the production line and interactions pour in like a tsunami. However, not all brands enjoy the advantage of automotive eye candy, and most need to work hard to make their product sexy.

How do personal care and home care brands that promote and sell diapers, disinfectant, laundry soap and toilet paper engage successfully with their audiences on social media?

To uncover the answer, we took a look at the top-performing content from these sectors from the past three years. The brands we looked at are Tide, Febreze, Bounty, Pampers, Charmin, Always, Kleenex, Huggies, Lysol, Gillette, Dollar Shave Club, Cottonelle, Tampax, Downy, Glade, Ziploc, Windex, Scrubbing Bubbles, Angel Soft, Method, SoftSoap, U by Kotex, The Honest Co., Airwick, Dial, Dawn and Harry’s.

Here’s what we found:

Content that featured CSR initiatives engaged the best

We analyzed the Facebook posts that got the most engagement for each brand and divided the content into different buckets. Take a look at how these topics fared in terms of engagement:

Content that featured corporate social responsibility initiatives got the most engagement. Social media audiences show their appreciation for companies committed to positive social and environmental initiatives by liking, commenting or sharing posts. This gives a huge boost to engagement.

However, brands can’t just post images or videos from a CSR initiative they participated in and expect great engagement from what could be viewed as empty self-promotion. There is a solid strategy at play here. Let’s examine how these brands frame their cause-related marketing content on Facebook.

Most engaging posts

Most shares and comments—Kleenex: The video captures the touching story of Chance, a pup and his paraplegic owner. Chance was left paralyzed after a car ran him over. The family that adopted him provided him with a wheelchair so that he could run around without any restrictions. As part of their Share the Care campaign, Kleenex narrates such stories about caring. Most of these mention its product in passing or not at all.

Most likes—Dawn: Dawn’s post got more than 712,000 likes on the photo below. Ever since 1988, Dawn has taken an active part in animal-rescue efforts. In 2009, the brand started leveraging these initiatives in its ad campaigns. It highlights the fact that the dishwashing liquid has proved the most effective in cutting through grease without harming the animals. This vouches for the product’s efficiency in cleaning dishes while being gentle on the skin.

Most liked campaign—Always: Always’ “Like a Girl” campaign received close to 260,000 likes. In this campaign, the brand calls on people to revise what we mean when we use the phrase, “like a girl.” By asking a bunch of adults and a set of kids to enact how they interpret the phrase, the campaign lays bare biases we acquire from society.

Most shared campaign—Tide: Tide’s Loads of Hope campaign reached a wide audience. It was shared more than 64,000 times. The detergent brand volunteered to provide laundry services free of cost in disaster-hit areas.

Similarly, some other brands such as Dollar Shave Club, Charmin and Dial won applause on social media by donating supplies to the army, fire department and the needy. Airwick witnessed great engagement on a video that captures the smells that remind a soldier of home. It even created customized aromatic candles with those aromas.

These successful pieces of content offer a few takeaways on how to market your CSR and other cause-related initiatives on social media.


  • Create an association between your brand and a cause: Quite a few highly successful cause-related campaigns barely mention the brand or the product. However, there is a synergy between the brand’s motto and the cause featured. Take Kleenex, for instance: The brand has anchored its campaigns around caring. Most of the videos that are part of the #ShareKleenexCare campaign depict random acts of kindness and sport the tagline, “Somebody Needs One.” This way, the brand strikes a parallel between extending support and offering a Kleenex tissue.
  • Tell compelling stories: Narrating a story with an emotional impact has a direct bearing on the extent your viewers retain your message. Brands can relate better with their audiences through storytelling. This is why Angel Soft’s content around the struggles that single parents and step parents go through has performed better than mere descriptions of its product.
  • Create shareable content: This is closely related to telling memorable stories. Brands cannot bank on the success of their content just because they describe a good deed. Every good story has to: present a problem; show what has been done to remedy it; and demonstrate what difference has been made. Stories about real changes in people’s lives (outcomes) work better than a bird’s eye view of brand efforts (outputs).
  • Welcome audience stories: Content around CSR initiatives aim to establish the brand as an actor within a particular domain. For example, when Dawn talks about wildlife protection, it gains authority as a stakeholder. Being open to your audience’s connection to similar issues and responding with empathy is essential in this regard. Prompt responses and customized replies to user comments are a great way to do this. Additionally, you can even source some of these audience testimonies as more content for your campaign. A great way to do this is by using a custom hashtag.

Cause-related marketing requires careful planning. In addition to these takeaways, brands need to consider trends in past data and the industry to make key decisions on their social media strategies.

Darsana Vijay is a social media journalist at social analytics firm Unmetric.

Image courtesy of jaminwell/iStock.