There’s a secret Madison Avenue doesn’t want you to know: Worthy-cause marketing can beat conventional advertising for many products, because it gives buyers political and social reasons to buy your product and remain loyal to your brand – and it’s more cost effective.

Worthy-cause marketing is different from charitable giving or cause marketing. It is essentially the alignment of your company with worthy causes. You get involved with a nonprofit and help them raise funds in turn for them spreading the word about your product, brand, and company. Here are some of the basic concepts of Worthy Cause Marketing.

1. Worthy-cause marketing is a different approach to network marketing. Cause marketing is based on the idea that your brand earns “points” with the general public by supporting a charitable cause. Charitable giving is based on the concept that you can tout your charitable donations. With worthy-cause marketing, your company aligns itself with the goals of the worthy causes you support.

2. Worthy-cause marketing is bigger than any one charitable or nonprofit group. Worthy causes include broad issues like clean water, clean beaches, children, homeless, conservation, education, AIDS treatments and prevention, civil rights, health issues, music and the arts, feeding the hungry, senior care, and many, many more. Within each worthy cause, there are many individual local and national nonprofit groups that address that particular issue.

3. Choose a cause that resonates with your brand. Subaru supports the American Canoe Association, the American Association of Snowboard Instructors, the International Mountain Bicycling Association, and other groups that are meaningful to the folks who buy Subaru’s cars – which, by the way, come with racks for canoes, bikes, and snowboards.

4. Go small and local. Small and local groups are much more loyal to their supporters, especially in their early-stage. Larger groups tend to demand more money. Some also play one company against another, essentially auctioning off their sponsorship each year. By choosing small groups, you get to work with them over the years, and they become part of your brand’s DNA. Also, you may have to go out on a limb, but you’ll receive the greatest loyalty from marginalized causes and groups that your company backs.

5. Do more than just donate. Make public appearances. Send staff to help at fundraisers. Help the nonprofit gain publicity. Talk about their cause in the marketplace, with your vendors, distributors, and contracted services – people the nonprofits would love to reach. Put their logo on your product, your company website, and your company newsletter. If you produce consumables or a service, you can donate them to their fundraiser to be auctioned off.

6. Unlike in charitable giving and cause marketing, ask the nonprofit to do some things that they can readily do. Ask to trade logos, provide links to each other on your respective websites, and make announcements in their newsletter about your sponsorship of their upcoming fundraiser. At fundraisers, ask that they give you recognition. Provide flyers that explain who you are and what you do. Say why you support the cause, what you donated in terms of time, money, and products, and where they can purchase your product. The things you ask for should cost the non-profit no money.

Growing the Barefoot Wine brand, we did no advertising, and used only worthy-cause marketing. Many of their members became loyal customers.

Of course, there’s much more that could be said on this subject. What’s been your experience? Michael Houlihan, co-founder of Barefoot Wine, the largest selling wine brand in the nation, invites you to join the discussion on Worthy-Cause Marketing with your comments, thoughts, and opinions below.

Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) & Shelf Smarts courses to help consumer product brand builders achieve success. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular business site at

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact