The Shadow Side of Cause Marketing (and How to Do It Well)

The Shadow Side of Cause Marketing (and How to Do It Well)

By Celina Jimenez


In 2006, Apple partnered with (RED) in their mission to eradicate the HIV/AIDS epidemic in perhaps one of the decade’s most recognizable examples of cause marketing. The mission was simple, yet profoundly impactful – Apple would release exclusive PRODUCT(RED) electronics, with a portion of the sales going directly towards international treatment programs. Since then, Apple has donated nearly $250 million to fund HIV/AIDS treatment programs.

An initiative like this sounds like the perfect solution for powerful companies committed to funding causes that need it most – and in many ways, it really is. But cause-driven consumerism (also referred to as “cause marketing” or “consumption philanthropy”) cannot be discussed without also considering the long-term efficacy and sincerity of it all. Is cause marketing all good, or can it be done improperly?

An article in Stanford Social Innovation Review suggested there are consequences to mixing business with ph...

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