The Selling of Social Issues


In recent years, market research has shown that consumers are more likely to purchase products aligned with charitable causes, especially when choosing between similar kinds of products. The business practice of drawing attention to issues such as global warming, poverty, and the HIV/AIDS crisis in order to sell clothing, electronics, or other commodities is referred to as ‘cause-related marketing’.


Companies have been spending billions of dollars on these initiatives, as they have proven immensely successful at attracting brand loyalty in the increasingly competitive marketplace. While ‘cause-related marketing’ may elicit a feel-good response from shoppers, it is crucial for us to question the role of corporations in charitable causes. Join us as we investigate the latest examples of ‘cause-related marketing’, addressing the contradictions within, and the motivations behind, these advertising campaigns. What options for contributing to social issues are made available in these advertisements? What might be the benefits, the limitations, and the significance of using consumerism to tackle the world’s most pressing problems?


1. Build competency in reading the complex narratives embedded in visual texts and commercial images.
2. Articulate and assess the explicit and implicit messages presented in advertisements for ‘cause-related marketing’ campaigns.
3. Conceive of options for supporting charitable causes that bypass corporate publicity schemes.

[Media Literacy Workshops designed by Liz Schulze, Mitchell Stookey + Wendy Chen]