In the last few weeks I noticed that a few beer brands have really started going at sustainability. Today’s blog post was going to be about that. But then, I pondered deeper on one of the initiatives I was planning to present; an impressive example of cause-based marketing product. And upon taking a pause from my deeply focused research and writing, I realised how contrasting it was with a cause-related product that I was proud to buy at the time. This article is about comparing these two.

Before starting with the good beer, firstly, it is worth highlighting that the industry in which this good case study exists is not really know for it at all.

Beer has not normally been a space for cause-based marketing

I realised this when my former employer Climate Friendly, an Australian profit for purpose business in the carbon space, told me about the beer brand “Cascade Green”. Cascade Green (Cascade is a brand of Fosters/Carlton & United Breweries, which is now part of Anheuser-Busch InBev) was a short-lived carbon neutral beer, that started around 2007 or 2007. The marketing made a lot of sense because Cascade’s home is the Australian state of Tasmania. Tasmania is known for its forests, Tasmania had a major environmental movement connected to Lake Pedder in the 1970’s, and Tasmania is the home of the world’s first green party.

But the product ended only a couple of short years. My understanding was that it stopped because the take-up was weak. I always reckoned that the idea was ahead of its time, and that ending it so abruptly could have been a missed opportunity.

This recent case study from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company reinforced my thinking

When GreenBiz interviewed Ken Grossman, the company’s Founder, as part of its “Sustainability MBA” Series, a product dedicated to raising funds for the recent fires in California was mentioned.

It became clear through the interview that this product, “Resilience Butte County Proud IPA”, was way more than just a classic cause-based marketing strategy. It went beyond the simple fundraising for a cause. It had employee wellbeing and engagement needs, because over 60 employees were affected by the fires. Its engaged suppliers to help out, many of which donated ingredients. Finally, wholesalers and retailers stocked the beer free of charge.

Sierra Nevada’s own website also shared that 100 percent of sales were donated, not a portion or just the profits. And most amazing of all:

We sent out the “bat signal”… asking other breweries (our competitors) to donate their time and labor costs…. It was a big ask, and we never could have anticipated the response. More than 1,400 breweries signed up to brew Resilience.

A multifaceted cause-related product that influenced more stakeholders than those affected by the cause. Employees, suppliers, customers, retailers, competitors, as well as the community.

Taking stock of the paragraphs I had drafted, it dawned on me that the device I was using to write this cause-related marketing article, was in fact, one itself!

My (PRODUCT)RED iPhone: a vastly different approach to cause-related marketing

I remembered the decision process I took last year in choosing the colour for my new phone, thinking to myself – “the decision was obvious, the one with the cause”! I was so proud of it too. So I tried to research how much money from a (PRODUCT)RED iPhone actually goes to RED. Most articles said that this information cannot be found anywhere. But I also seem to recall one saying a measly US$1 per Apple product was given, and relative to the price of an iPhone, this would be laughable if true. On Apple’s webpage about it, we learn that money goes to a good cause, the cause is an important one, and that the organisation that is receiving the funds is a serious and credible one. And this is great stuff.

But when I compare Resilience Butte County Proud IPA to (PRODUCT)RED iPhone, I am personally left longing for that beer (even though I do not drink). I am also left wondering whether choosing a red coloured iPhone had contributed to anything meaningful and real. I could even say I feel a little RED(-FACED) from embarrassment.

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