By David Hessekiel
**Editor’s Note: While we recognize that this content is dated, we feel it’s valuable to keep up on the Engage for Good site to serve as a historical reference. We plan to update this content and come up with a new top ten list. Weigh in with the campaigns you feel should be included in the new list in the comments below!**
Thousands of programs designed to do well by doing good have been launched by businesses and nonprofits over the last 35 years. Many have been short-term and pedestrian, while others have been inspiring and impactful.
I’ve tried to identify the most influential cause marketing campaigns. My hope is to educate and be educated by inspiring a dialogue on the most outstanding work in this field.
1. American Express Statue of Liberty Restoration (1983): During a three-month period, American Express offered to contribute 1 cent for each card transaction and $1 for each new card issued and backed the offer with a substantial media campaign. The effort raised $1.7 million to restore the statue and Ellis Island, moved the needle for Amex’s business and gave birth to the field of cause marketing.
2. Yoplait Save Lids to Save Lives (1999 to 2016): This quickly became one of America’s best-known breast cancer campaigns. The fact that consumers saved and mailed in millions of sticky lids to raise 10 cents each to support Susan G. Komen for the Cure is testimony to cause marketing’s motivational power. Yoplait did a masterful job of integrating this transactional program with its sponsorship of Komen’s Race for the Cure, continually refined the initiative and supported it with paid and earned media. It raised more than $26 million.
3. Dove Campaign for Real Beauty (2004 to present): Unilever didn’t adopt a cause; it created one with breakthrough creative that sparked an international discussion of beauty stereotypes. It developed the Dove Self-Esteem Fund and reached millions of young women with information on body positivity. Sales for Dove jumped from $2.5 to $4 billion in the campaign’s first ten years.
4. 1,000 Playgrounds in 1,000 Days (2005 to 2008): The Home Depot and KaBOOM! took employee volunteerism to new heights with this national three-year program to build great places for kids to play within walking distance of their homes.
5. The Members Project (2007 to 2008): Promotions that ask consumers to direct corporate giving are growing common, but American Express pioneered the use of social media and buttressed brand appreciation with this effort. Over two years it gave away $4.5 million, including top winners the Alzheimer’s Association and U.S. Fund for UNICEF.
6. Whirlpool and Habitat for Humanity (1999 to present): The appliance maker transformed its previously little-known commitment to provide a range and refrigerator for each Habitat home built in the U.S. into a major driver of brand loyalty with a multimedia campaign. In more than 18 years of partnership with Habitat for Humanity, Whirlpool has developed active programs in more than 45 countries with a commitment of more than $107 million. In the United States and Canada, the company has donated more than 191,000 ranges and refrigerators to new Habitat homes, serving more than 100,000 families.
7. Lee National Denim Day (1996 to 2016): A traditionally male brand, Lee made huge inroads with women by embracing the breast cancer cause in a unique way: It empowered consumers to organize workplace drives at which employees contributed $5 for the right to wear jeans to work on the first Friday in October. Since 1996, the program raised over $93 million for breast cancer research and advocacy.
8. Product (RED) (2006 to the present): Founders Bono and Bobby Shriver boldly threw out the cause-marketing rule book to create (RED). Their privately held company created and licensed a hot brand to The Gap, Apple, Armani and other marketers and staged an unprecedented launch. Although often criticized for a lack of transparency, (RED) has raised more than $600 million for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and continues to attract new corporate licensees such as Nike and Starbucks.
9. LiveStrong Bracelet (2004 to 2013): When the Nike and Lance Armstrong Foundation came up with this idea to raise funds and awareness for the supercyclist’s cancer charity, no one dreamed it would become a worldwide fashion item worn by presidential candidates, movie stars, kids and grandmothers. More than 80 million of the glorified yellow rubber bands were sold for $1 each. The two brands announced their separation in 2013 when Lance Armstrong admitted to doping.
10. What did I miss? What do you think are the most influential cause marketing campaigns of all time? Share your insights in the comments below.