How to Build a Brand Without Advertising

The 7 Steps of Worthy Cause Marketing

Brand recognition is the life blood of any product that passes through distribution channels. Building your brand to the point of significant market share takes years, and conventional advertising can be financially infeasible, especially for new product manufacturers.

In today’s world, the public demands transparency. Your customers want to know what your company stands for besides the product you sell. They glean this by your sourcing, manufacturing, and labor practices, as well as the causes your support.

Worthy Cause Marketing is a comprehensive marketing program that provides mutual benefits to both you and your non-profit partners. It’s more than just charitable giving. By using your access to the marketplace to promote their cause, they benefit, and in return, their membership can help promote you.

Here are the 7 steps of Worthy Cause Marketing:

  1. Discover the Worthy Causes that resonate with you or your product. Does your product have to do with clean water, food, clothing, shelter, air, land, health, etc? There is a Worthy Cause for every category.
  2. Identify the Nonprofits that champion those causes. Local, underfunded groups may be more appreciative and loyal than larger ones.
  3. Donate Product to their fundraisers in return for public recognition and brand visibility to their membership. Ask them for things they can readily do at no cost, like thank you announcements, newsletter and blog mentions, and site links. For their events, provide your signage, flyers, and lists of where to buy your products.
  4. Provide Publicity for their cause and why you support it on your company’s sites, publications, and merchandising materials.
  5. Start Small and Stay Loyal. Sometimes a small group with a big idea just needs to get the word out. Your access to the distribution channel can provide them with the publicity they need to grow. They grow with you.
  6. Tell your Retailers especially about the local groups you support and the dates of their upcoming fund-raisers. Show the retailer’s name on the where-to-buys. It may be a reason why they decide to bring in extra stock and promote your product.
  7. Remember to Have Fun. When you and your people are sincerely involved in the cause’s activities, you will demonstrate enthusiasm for their cause and celebrate their achievements. It’s fun to be part of something bigger than yourself or your product.

Instead of advertising, Barefoot Wine relied on worthy cause promotions for almost two decades and received the industry’s Hot Brand Award for growth. Dollar for dollar, networking with the membership of the worthy cause is the most efficient form of advertising.

Giving people a social reason to buy is important for any cash strapped start-up, but even when you’re established; it’s just plain good business.

Your people will be proud, your customers will be loyal, and you can do your part to make the world a better place through worthy cause marketing.


About Michael Houlihan & Bonnie Harvey

Starting in a laundry room with no money or industry knowledge, they built the iconic Best-Selling Barefoot Wine Brand - without advertising. In 2005, they monetized their brand equity and now offer proven business principles and real world experience. Visit our YouTube Channel →


  1. Watch This Movie to See an Example of How a Passion Can Create a Company Culture | Barefoot Wine Founders - September 22, 2011

    [...] Barefoot Spirit”, chronicles the beginnings of the Barefoot Wine Brand and our commitment to worthy cause marketing with support for groups like the Surfriders. This organization is a true guardian of our coast and [...]

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