Cause-Related Video Marketing: What Stonyfield and Honest Tea Can Teach Us

As a tie in with April’s “Earth Month”, the CEOs of two organic produce companies, Stonyfield Farm and Honest Tea teamed up for a “cooperative video contest” with two objectives: Promote the companies’ partnership for Earth Month, and generate more awareness of the benefits of organic food and beverages. Below I have outlined how we can learn from their example of doing video in a “cause-related marketing” campaign, and have listed some tips for how your own business can do cause-related video marketing and practice corporate social responsibility.

The Stonyfield Farm/ Honest Tea Video Campaign – Entertainment, Education, User Generated Video Contest, and Fun

Here’s what the cooperate video campaign includes:

  • A promotional video by both CEOs and their employees singing and rapping about the benefits of eating and drinking organic. Prior to Earth Month, Stonyfield released a rap video with their CEO performing their unique single, “Just Eat Organic; and Honest Tea® followed that up with their rap video release of “Rethink What you Drink.”
  • Each company created a campaign website – and – urging consumers to create a video for an opportunity to win $1,000 and a month’s supply of both Stonyfield and Honest Tea products.
  • Both companies are promoting their initiatives on social media sites. Their Facebook home pages for both companies direct fans to submit their own video, and live Twitter feeds appear on both campaign websites.
  • A complimentary campaign website at, which already includes stories from notables such as “Food, Inc.” director Robert Kenner and founder of “Meatless Mondays” Chris Elam. Consumers are invited to send in their stories as texts, photos or no-fuss videos, like Flip cam, web cam, or mobile cam.

“We want to show how much fun it can be to live sustainably.” Said Honest Tea CEO Seth Goldman in an interview earlier this month with Tanya Irwin of MediaPost’s Marketing Daily.“We’re hoping that the great message (well-timed with Earth Month) and the fun nature of the video will encourage viewers to pass it along to their friends and networks.”

What is “Cause-Related Marketing?”

Cause-related marketing generally refers to any type of marketing effort that is considered to be a benefit beyond the business. For retailers, the basic business idea behind cause-related marketing is to appeal to consumers’ sense of values – be it social, economic, environmental (or any combination of the three) – in influencing their purchase decisions.

Cause-related marketing falls in two types of returns for businesses:

Money: This can include an increase in sales, of whatever it is you’re selling that’s associated with the cause. Some examples include a portion of the sales revenue or profits being donated to a non-profit partner, usually with certain revenue expectations being met.

Social: This can include increasing awareness, additional followers/fans, and an increase in positive sentiment for both your cause and your brand. This can come in the form of partnerships with non-profits already boasting positive sentiment, increased consumption or usage of what you have to sell, endorsements (including celebrity endorsements), and media buzz. Done well over time, social returns can have your company heralded as thought leaders and consumer advocates.

Stonyfield and Honest Tea’s video contest and video education program falls under cause-related marketing, where their shared cause is sustainability. Both companies profess in their own promotional videos that eating and drinking organic goes to the heart of sustainability. Their cooperative goal with doing social video around a contest is to build awareness, promote education, and encourage video creation and other multimedia content from users (including having users and some high-profile organic thought leaders share stories of going organic.)

For cause-related marketing to be considered successful in monetization terms, businesses have to weigh how much it costs to pull off a campaign versus how much money the campaign actually raises for the cause. Since so much of cause-related marketing today is tied into social media (including YouTube and other video channels, Facebook and Twitter feeds), marketers have typically been good about including and measuring social metrics. Those social metrics can show improved brand awareness, along with increased engagement with consumers and the media, and more general buzz in the online and traditional marketplace.

How Stonyfield Embodies Cause-Related Marketing

Ruth Ann Barrett, Founder of Earthsayers.TV and cause-related marketing expert.

I had the opportunity to interview cause-related marketing expert Ruth Ann Barrett, a marketing consultant of 20 years to big brands such as HP and Sun Microsystems. She is now a sustainability advocate and the Founder of, the first website dedicated to the sustainability movement that highlights the voices of sustainability through both original video content and video aggregation.

Ruth said the Stonyfield/Honest Tea video campaign is drawing on the deep commitment the founders of both organizations have to sustainability-related issues. “Because there is such a strong story and a well deserved reputation on the part of these two companies and their leaders, they can produce a campaign, especially ones where their executives are on the screen, that comes across as personal and authentic because it is.”

“Stonyfield and Honest Tea’s very business is all about sustainability. That’s what organic is about and they live by it; it’s not just a marketing gimmick.” said Ruth.

Ruth provided me with some helpful examples of how Stonyfield Farm actually lives by their cause in their business, and creates real value from it:

  • Economic – they always share a portion of the profits to their cause of sustainability, including providing financial help to other businesses practicing sustainability.
  • Environmental – they have company goals in place for major areas of environmental burden, such as facility energy, facility emissions, percent of renewable energy for their manufacturing facility, packaging, and transportation.
  • Social – CEO Gary is a frequent speaker on topics including sustainability, climate change, the profitability of green and socially responsible business, organic agriculture and sustainable economic development.

The Advantages of Doing Video in Cause-Related Marketing

Stonyfield and Honest Tea were keen to making video the core part of their cause-related marketing campaign. As Ruth shared with me, video has proven itself for many years to be extremely well suitable for doing cause-related marketing, for reasons such as these:

  • It’s very low cost compared to other sustainability initiatives.
  • Video provides an entertaining, emotional, and attention-getting way of presenting your cause.
  • Video is well suited for sharing the cause with others, and performs very well in both search and social media for gaining visibility rather quickly.

Ruth shared with me that video has been extremely effective in addressing three key initiatives of cause-related marketing:

  • Government legislation
  • Consumer concerns
  • Employee interest (for a healthy organizational culture)

“Video lets you get the information into the hands of consumers in a simple way that will allow them to start making changes in their lifestyles and purchasing decisions that will drive this forward.” says Ruth.

Should Your Company Do Cause-Related Video Marketing?

Here are some criteria for consideration:

  • Does your company and its leaders have a deep commitment to the cause? That includes more than just giving a portion of your profits; it’s also about continuing the message and having an ongoing conversation abut the cause – well beyond any initial campaign or when you’re between campaigns. You need to regularly provide awareness, education, dialogue, and even entertainment.
  • Can you get lots of consumers involved? It’s not enough for your company to be passionate with a cause; it requires having a lot of consumers to actually join you. See if there’s already a good degree of interest in the cause that you can harness, or if your business is willing to make a long-term commitment to building awareness and educating people.
  • Can you make a broad footprint online? You need to be willing to reach out to consumers anywhere they are online, and on their terms.
  • Will you support the efforts of consumers to create content, and give them a platform to do it? Have a YouTube channel or another video channel (or at the very least, have a playlist somewhere) dedicated to user submissions. Consider aggregating consumer-generated videos and featuring them on your own site.
  • Will you always share the profits? Be willing to always give a portion of your revenue to the cause, even in tough financial times.
  • Will you also measure the social? Sustainability and cause-marketing expert Andrew Savitz says it can be difficult to figure out what is spent on sustainability-driven measures versus bottom line ROI. As you can gleam from this video interview, the key is to assign value to the social metrics available from your video campaigns.

Today, Ruth is so passionate about doing online video that she considers it her own personal campaign for getting her fellow cause-marketers to be involved with video as well. “If you are passionate about your business, and have a cause and a story to tell, then video is what you need to do.” Says Ruth. “A cause is an idea fueled by passion, and video is the ideal vehicle to use to share that passion with others. Why would you use anything else but video?”