Corporations spend millions on Super Bowl ads every year and few businesses have been bigger spenders than beer companies in general and Michelob in particular.


So it was altogether very interesting that in this year’s Super Bowl, aside from a very funny commercial with Jimmy Fallon, Michelob Ultra ran an ad about . . . organic farming.


Now, why is that?


Because Michelob knows that, these days, cause marketing is smart marketing.


Michelob Ultra Pure Gold is the first national beer to be certified organic by the USDA, and so the ad showed how the company is helping farmers transition in their efforts to grow certified organic produce.


Companies are realizing that younger consumers – Gen Z and the Millennials – want and expect more from the businesses with whom they shop; they want those companies to stand for something.


Indeed, a recent survey found that 91% of Millennials prefer brands that have a cause associated with it.


Hence, a beer ad about organic farming.


All of which then begs the question: How do you, as a small business, show these younger consumers with disposable dollars, that you too are committed to making the world a better place and not just selling them a better widget?


And the answer is: Pick the right cause. Cause marketing is a way for any businesses to show their commitment to not only the bottom line, but their desire to better the world in the process, and that is what your new, younger customers want to see.


In fact, as a small business, you are uniquely situated to very much benefit from this advent of cause marketing. Showing that you are committed to the bigger picture is almost easier for a small business because your relationship with your customers is so personal. They will know and appreciate your efforts.


That said, there is an art to picking the right cause. Like Goldilocks’ porridge, you do not want one that is too hot (because it will turn people off) or too cold (because no one will care) but instead, one that is just right.


Here’s how to choose wisely:


1. Be Authentic. Young consumers are savvy and crave authenticity. They will smell a phony cause a mile away, so the first step is to choose a cause that:


  • Resonates with your customers,


  • Dovetails with your brand


An outdoor adventure business can donate to environmental causes. A men’s or women’s clothing store can donate a portion of each purchase to its local Dress for Success branch. A restaurant could create a dish where the proceeds go to its local food bank.


Choose something different, memorable, but which also stays true to you and your brand.


2. Make it win/win. Choosing the right cause or non-profit to donate to or otherwise work with should mean you both will benefit from the arrangement. The non-profit of course gets funds and publicity, but at the same time, your business should generate some buzz too. The only way to accomplish both is by publicizing your participation and making sure the recipient organization does as well.


Ultimately, you’re going to want to do something that not only benefits your nonprofit of choice, but also you.


3. Encourage customer participation. Nearly 70% of millennials want businesses to “make it easier for consumers to do their part in addressing issues such as health, the economy, and environmental sustainability.” So being able to allow your customers an easy gateway to do so with your cause marketing is crucial to its success.



Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, steve strauss headshot.pngincluding his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.


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