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  • Writer's pictureMarshall G. Zotara

Proprietary Cause Marketing Explained

We are often asked what the recently-coined phrase ‘Proprietary Cause Marketing’ means? The English version.

Today, we’ll answer that.

First, we need to answer what the more common term ‘Cause Marketing’ means. In its most simplistic form, cause marketing is defined as a “co-branded joint promotional effort of a for-profit corporation with a nonprofit organization for mutual benefit”. For most traditional cause-related marketing endeavors, the benefit to the for-profit is increased sales and branding; the benefit to the nonprofit is increased donations. A percentage of sales supporting the cause is simply donated to the nonprofit’s general fund. It is “a blend of traditional marketing and philanthropic appeal” that provides consumers with a sense of altruism when they purchase the product or service connected to the promotion.

It is generally accepted that cause marketing was launched almost 40 years ago when American Express raised money for the preservation of the Statue of Liberty. During the summer in 1983, AmEx donated a penny for each credit card transaction by their cardholders, and additional funds for each new account opened. More than $1.7 million was raised to restore and preserve Lady Liberty.

Now, ‘Proprietary Cause Marketing’ defined. Similar to cause marketing, the reinvented Proprietary Cause Marketing model also generates the funding necessary to make a cause a reality. And similarly, Proprietary Cause Marketing is designed to benefit the for-profit company supporting the cause, through community giveback, employee volunteerism programs, and (here’s the left turn), included media, marketing, and PR, that recognizes the for-profit’s contribution and support.

The primary difference from traditional cause marketing is that the cause projects produced for the for-profits are created, developed, and owned by an agency (nontraditional PR firm, unconventional ad agency, or sometimes radio/TV outlet), and most of the rights are then licensed (transferred) to their partnered clients for leveraging.

Corporate naming rights; transferring (or donating) ownership of the completed projects to the in-need recipients; the ability for the partners to customize most of their components; hyper-organized employee volunteerism; and substantive media, press, and PR are the primary rights that can be transferred to the partners.

With Proprietary Cause Marketing, the term proprietary simply means ‘ownership’. Ownership of the cause by the agency allows unrestricted benefits to be transferred to the partners. Although the agency (including Trilogy Agency) is not a nonprofit, the beneficiaries of our projects are still low-income families, at-risk children, school districts, nonprofits, and municipalities. Because of our structure, Trilogy Agency is free of encumbrances and restrictions placed on nonprofits or 501(c)3’s.

End result, partners of Proprietary Cause Marketing projects can still give to their communities (with even more impact), and now can activate (leverage) their philanthropy, and receive unusual and tangible benefits that work for them—especially in the areas of organized employee volunteerism and becoming recognized as a good corporate citizen through media and PR.

Because of this rare platform, the agency (in this case, Trilogy Agency) can, and does, place an emphasis on their Partners’ Return-On-Investment (ROI). This changes everything. With this priority, the agency is able to deliver compelling cause projects, and at the same time, deliver unprecedented returns for their clients.

An awesome cause, upgraded employee volunteerism, and unparalleled media, marketing, and PR drive these initiatives to be good for the communities they serve, and good for the bottom-line these clients need!

The VIBE Home Makeover is the prototype of today’s new Proprietary Cause Marketing.

It is expected that in just a few years, Proprietary Cause Marketing will be a driving force in the way companies give to their communities. And, the communities giveback to these companies.

To have a dialogue about this rare marketing model, and how your company can dramatically benefit in multiple ways from this blueprint, please connect with me at

Marshall G. Zotara

Senior Managing Director

Trilogy Agency

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