9 Creative social cause marketing campaigns of 2016

A curated list of cause marketing campaigns by brands and NGOs that truly harnessed the power of digital and social media in 2016

Cause marketing campaigns often pose unique challenges for brands. On the one hand, the brand needs to be authentic to the core, straying away from mere lip service, and on the other, it needs to create a meaningful and significant impact on the ground, powered with people and the connected web. While cause marketing campaigns leveraging social media usually tend to convert users’ views, likes and shares into monetary contributions, over the last few years, more and more brands are looking to get involved with the cause in more direct ways.

Last year saw quite a few innovative cause marketing campaigns that harnessed the power of social media. One of India’s biggest digital crowdfunding campaign collected funds for our farmers, a very popular Bollywood star helped collect funds for midday meals for children, an NGO roped in an acid attack survivor as the face of its campaign intended to put an end to over-the-counter acid sales in the country. Read “11 Innovative Cause Marketing Campaigns of 2015.”

2016 started off with some creative additions in cause marketing campaigns leveraging social media. Brands not only looked forward to building some buzz and positive brand image, the campaigns have been crafted to bring about a lasting change in the state of affairs. Right from spreading awareness about the education of girls and its impact on society, to battling child labour, hunger, drought and also providing employment to acid attack survivors, brands along with NGOs have ensured maximum participation from the social web. We bring you here, a curated list of cause marketing campaigns by brands and NGOs that truly harnessed the power of digital and social media in 2016:

Lenovo ‘#GirlsWithGoals’

This year, the YUWA girls were representing India at Donosti Cup in Spain. For the uninitiated, YUWA is a non-profit organization that teaches girls to play football to overcome the challenges in their life. Lenovo India, in association with YUWA invested in a massive cause marketing campaign, ‘Girls with Goals.’ The idea was to showcase their journey in realtime, as the girls made their way from the hinterland of Jharkhand to Spain.

Riding along was a noble objective too = while the girls exemplified Lenovo’s new brand philosophy of ‘Fail Forward’, they also set about collecting funds for a school,. Video stories of their journey were conceptualized and produced in real time while a campaign titled #KickforABrick engaged social media users and sparked a call-for-action. Read all about the Lenovo India Girls for Goals cause marketing campaign.

Nanhi Kali & Nestlé India #EducateTheGirlChild

Project Nanhi Kali is an initiative aimed to provide primary education to underprivileged girl children in India that works through sponsorship. This Teachers’ Day, Nestlé India joined hands with Project Nanhi Kali for the launch of their campaign – #EducateTheGirlChild. The objective was to educate a million girls. Digital initiatives included a touching digital film about a little girl who by cutting her hair and wearing a shirt, hoped to look like a boy and be allowed to go to school.

Informative visual content was shared by the social media handles of both entities, Twitter’s Periscope was used to livestream an interaction with the girls of Nanhi Kali on Teachers’ Day. Sponsors could get their special father-daughter pictures clicked by celebrity photographers, which all together helped build awareness for the cause. Read all about the Nanhi Kali & Nestlé India #EducateTheGirlChild cause marketing campaign.

Make Love Not Scars “#SkillsNotScars”

Make Love Not Scars (MLNS) is an NGO that supports victims of acid attacks. Last year, it filed a petition to end acid sale in India in association with Ogilvy & Mather through a powerful, award-winning campaign, ‘#EndAcidSale’. Playing on the worldwide awareness built around rehabilitating acid attack victims, it recently rolled out #SkillsNotScars, a powerful new campaign to help find jobs for acid-attack survivors. In the video-driven campaign, acid-attack survivors present their skills to potential employers through a CV with a twist – a Video CV.

The videos drive viewers and potential employers to a page that is a one-of-a-kind online Employment Exchange for hiring various acid-attack survivors. Additionally, funny videos were created with a popular comedian and one of the acid attack survivors, and shared by Buzzfeed India. Read all about the Make Love Not Scars #SkillsNotScars cause marketing campaign.

Himalaya Lip Care ‘Project Muskaan’

Smile Train India is an NGO dedicated to spreading awareness and treatment of cleft deformities and bring back smiles to children born with clefts. This year, Himalaya Lip Care collaborated with Smile Train for the launch of ‘Project Muskaan’. The idea was to debunk myths associated with clefts that they are not a curse, and can be repaired with a simple 45-minute corrective surgery. A contribution of rupees two from the purchase of every Himalaya Lip Care product has been driven towards enabling cleft surgeries for impoverished children.

Bringing the campaign to story form is a video capturing the transformational journey of a cleft patient named Jyothi. She hardly looked into the mirror and avoided going to school as other children laughed at her. It was hard to eat, breathe and even smile for the kind-hearted young girl, until Project Muskaan transformed her life and gave her the smile she deserved.

Celebrities also joined in the cause and helped amplify the message by sharing the video with their followers.

KFC India ‘Plate of Hope’

This year, KFC India partnered with World Food Program (WFP), Akshaya Patra Foundation and India Food Banking Network (IFBN) on a noble mission to fight hunger with ‘Plate of Hope’. The campaign was launched to provide 20 million meals to the under privileged children in India by 2020. Along with distribution of food, and contribution from consumers and KFC employees, users on social media could also create virtual plates of food.

A dedicated microsite enabled people to create a ‘Plate of Hope’; one could choose from a variety of avatars for themselves, then choose from a variety of plates and write a message of hope. For every plate created, KFC committed to feed a hungry child.

In October, three short animation films were created to spread the message of ‘You eat, they eat.’ It featured the story of less fortunate kids scouting for food inside a KFC bucket. Users who bought a bucket could use their smartphones to point at the bucket and watch the films using  image recognition technology in the packaging. Read all about the KFC India Plate of Hope cause marketing campaign.

Turtle ‘#TheBlindspot’

This May, men’s lifestyle brand, Turtle launched a beautiful World Turtle Day initiative ‘The Blindspot’, as it does every year for building awareness on the conservation of this endangered species. In association with Premasree, a free residential home for visually impaired children, it created a digital film where visually impaired children helped show the visually gifted world, how beautiful turtles are.

The apparel brand handed drawing sheets, colour pencils and colourful play dough to visually impaired kids and asked to paint or sculpt the turtle of their imagination. With a little help, they created some never-seen-before depictions of turtles in vivid colours.

These creations were then shared on social media along with pictures of the little artists. Users were invited to like, share and donate points to be added to the contributions by Turtle to TSA (Turtle Surveillance Alliance). Limited edition t-shirts were also created featuring the kids’ drawings, the proceeds from the sales were contributed to the cause. Read all about Turtle #TheBlindspot cause marketing campaign.

Free A Billion “Boy who will not stand for National Anthem’

‘Free a Billion’, a not for profit initiative has a definite timeline to bring about a change in the administration. The imitative calls upon citizens to join the movement creating a pressure group for an open and efficient government that delivers. This August, in a move to highlight the apathy towards basic civil rights, it partnered with digital L&K Saatchi & Saatchi for the campaign, “The Boy Who Will Not Stand for The National Anthem.”

A video took us through the story of Prakash Bilhore, a 16-year-old who would not ever stand for the National Anthem. He lost his life last year in an accident due to a pothole in Mumbai. The video was shared on social media driving users to join the movement for better roads.


This April, Reliance General Insurance and children’s rights NGO Child Rights and You (CRY) had launched a massive Twitter campaign aimed at raising awareness for the growing problem of child labour. The campaign titled creatively, ‘#DONT_EMPLOY_LITTLE_ONES urged Twitter users to tweet whatever they ordinarily would, but using only all caps and hence avoiding the usage of ‘little ones’. Every tweet turned into an active statement of intent against child labour. And while at it, social media was leveraged to drive users to the donation site.

CricHQ #ICareISupport

This May, CricHQ, one of the world’s largest digital cricketing platform had launched a Twitter campaign meant to mobilize funding for Maharashtra drought victims. The idea was to channelise the Twitter users’ passion for cricket into social good, through a “Digital Donation Box”. The hashtag #ICareISupport was coined for cricket fans to demonstrate their support for society, just as they use Twitter to voice their support for cricket. For every unique tweet with the hashtag #ICareISupport, CricHQ would donate Re. 1 to The Naam Foundation, an NGO founded by Bollywood actor Nana Patekar and Marathi filmmaker Makarand Anaspure, for their work in drought relief.

Cause marketing, if executed well, can truly accelerate the power and reach of social media to mobilise people for a cause. With more and more people-driven initiatives, brands can hope to catalyze a change, as in the examples given above, and while at it, build on establishing itself as a socially responsible brand.