Cause Marketing for Photographers

As we move towards the coming new year many of us are beginning to implement a new marketing plan. Also, as the holiday season comes to a close many of our thoughts are on giving. Cause marketing is an opportunity to combine the two. For those unfamiliar with the term, cause marketing is a form of marketing that allows two organizations, one for profit, and one non-profit, to work together to further each of their individual marketing/development goals in a cooperative fashion. Think of the (product) RED campaign, or the partnership between the NFL and United Way.

Cause marketing can be as simple as offering a sponsorship to a local charity event, or as involved and complex as you care to make it. Below are some examples of actual cause marketing campaigns I’ve seen photographers in my market employ”¦

  • A local portrait/wedding studio holds quarterly workshops for photographers on various business practice issues. They host at their studio and usually bring in a guest speaker. They don’t charge attendees directly but ask that they make a donation to a specific charity ($40 to the local food bank or so.)
  • A commercial photographer sponsors a hole-in-one contest at a charity golf outing. If a participant scores a hole in one, they win $10,000. He gets a bond each year to cover it for about $100. He’s at the tee of that hole, shoots a photo of the foursome and mails each of them a print (with his logo and web address of course.)
  • A fine art photographer gives 25% of sales of a series of images of the Chesapeake Bay to a local environmental charity.
  • In lieu of holiday gifts for his corporate clients, an industrial photographer makes a donation to the USO (many of his clients are in the defense industry and are veterans). He then sends the clients a note thanking them for their business and letting the client know that he’s made that donation.

Please understand I’m not talking about charity. Cause marketing doesn’t get you off the hook for being a good person outside of work. You don’t send a press release every time you put two bucks in for the Salvation Army. Nor am I talking solely about pro bono work, although pro bono can be a part of your cause marketing strategy.

The opportunities for cause marketing concepts are, like traditional marketing, only limited by our imagination. Each of us has our specialty, target audience, and personal values that are important to us.   These factors will determine what cause marketing opportunities exist for each of our businesses. Find a charity you care about, come up with a concept and approach them with it. The best cause marketing concepts and clients will…

  • Be a plus for both organizations financially
  • Be a boon for your creativity
  • Increase awareness in the community for both groups
  • Lead to opportunities for new clients
  • Lead to opportunities for new employees
  • Keep current employees interested and engaged
  • Be great fun

Cause marketing should be one of many parts of your overall marketing strategy along with traditional marketing, public relations and good old-fashioned selling. Too often we photographers work alone at our desks or behind the lens. We don’t easily bring other people and groups into the fold, (to drive the point home, I’m sitting alone at my desk as I write this.) Any opportunity that compels us to get out and work with others on a larger project can be a good thing.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Great post, Steve. Cause marketing is very applicable for small businesses, including photographers. You’ve made some great suggestions! Cause marketing should be part of every company’s marketing mix. Good luck in the new year and look forward to hearing more about your efforts.

    Also, as I write a blog on cause marketing, I’d like to write about some your successful efforts if you have the time and interest.


  2. I really like this idea. I’ll have to go away and have a think about how to do this. Thanks a lot.


  3. Steve,

    I’ve been meaning to comment on this. I’ve never heard the term “cause marketing before” but I think the idea behind it is great.

    In fact, I’d like to push the idea one step further. For those of our readers who are aspiring environmental or nature photographers or want to do “National Geographic” style magazine or stock shooting, I think that allying yourself to a worthy cause and putting your camera to work for it can actually lead to break through moments that produce a flood of publications, magazine stories, press, and attention for your work.

    I still remember an old Boyd Norton book I read, and he talked about how he and many other photographers got their start by finding an environmental cause they believed in and then focusing on it because they believed in it. I ended up getting at least half a dozen clients and newspaper/magazine publications out of a small project I did to support an NGO that does environmental and health work in Borneo (Health in Harmony). They still use a lot of those images on their site.

    These kind of projects display the kind of focus that magazine editors consider critical to undertaking photo projects, and they produce a deep portfolio of images around specific topics and stories.

    And others that see you engaged in project like this become allies in promoting your work.

    In any case, great article!


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