Perspectives: Is ‘Giving Back’ The New Norm, Or Is It Just A Sexy Fad?


Cause marketing has become quite the megatrend this year, but is it just a craze or is it here to stay? Will buyers be likely to pay more for a good cause? Is this new generation really that motivated by kindness that they are using it as a decision-making point in the buying process? Is giving back a trend or is it being indoctrinated into our culture and community?

Cue Heal the World by Michael Jackson.

We’ve seen “giveback” as the core of several retail businesses. Toms was founded on the one-for-one model of giving a pair of shoes to children in need across the world for every pair purchased. The platform and brand became so popular and successful that the company launched an eyewear line. Pura Vida Bracelets was started by two college students who visited Costa Rica and wanted to give back to that community and partner with other charities; they’ve donated over $1.7 million since 2010. Cotopaxi gives one percent of profits toward addressing poverty and supporting community development based on the creed: Do Good. I have bought from all three companies and although the purchase was a feel-good one, the giveback component wasn’t the main reason I shopped them. I liked their product. I loved their story too, but the product was my deciding factor.

What’s interesting about these companies is that giving back was the core value that started their business; they were not businesses that got into cause marketing and then tried to use it as a platform.

Suppliers: Outside of a feel-good vibe, there is money to be made, but if that is the core reason you are thinking of creating a product line or initiative, I urge you to reconsider. Giving back needs to be authentic, otherwise you’ll likely be exposed.

Distributors: Every product can be a giveback product if you make it one. You have the power to create the story and purpose that resonates with you and your customers. Consider a cause that you are passionate about or allow your customers to collaborate on a cause.

I think it’s important to note that while these warm and fuzzy feelings might be one reason to purchase products, it is not likely the only reason to do so. We still need to be cognizant of quality and value to understand customers’ needs and find alignment. This year I was able to attend The Big Slick event in Kansas City. Several people in the promo community help in a big way to make this event happen every year. This year they raised more than $10 million for Children’s Mercy Hospital. Many companies have put a lot of time, talent and heart into giving back in big ways, but it is also the small gestures that make an impact as well. 

A few years ago, my business coach recommended the book Saving Civility after we got into a discussion about how depressing the world seemed based on news headlines and what the media was reporting. It’s a simple book that reminds us about all the little things we can do daily to help make the world a kinder and better place. In March, I attended a conference where Oprah Winfrey was one of the keynote speakers. She reflected on a conversation that she had with Maya Angelou several years ago about the purpose of life and what she wanted her legacy to be. Maya simply said, “You have no idea what your legacy will be. Your legacy is every life you touch.”

Generally speaking, I think that people want to feel good. They want to feel like they have a purpose. That gives me hope that giving back is more than a trend. I hope kindness and giving are here to stay. 

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Brittany David, MAS, is vice president of sales at SnugZ USA.

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