This powerful PSA from The Topsy Foundation needs no explanation. Please share with all your friends.
This powerful PSA from The Topsy Foundation needs no explanation. Please share with all your friends.
It is encouraging to me how much more conversation there is about cause these days. For so many years, those of us engaged in the practice almost needed to bribe people just to get them to listen to us wax poetic about the wonders of cause marketing/branding. Today, the conversation has entered into the mainstream. And whenever that happens to a topic, it means the critics and skeptics increase in number.
The good thing about critics and skeptics is it makes those of us who believe in the core values of cause marketing check the mirror. That's a good thing. No idea lasts forever. No program can last forever without a constant commitment to keep it fresh. And with today's consumer dictating to those of us in marketing communications what content they want to hear and where they want to find it, our cause programs must be 100 % transparent.
Timothy Ogden wrote a piece for Forbes.com this week titled "How Cause Marketing Can Actually Backfire." In it Timothy underscores the importance of transparency and takes it a step further by imploring companies involved in cause to take transparency to a new level. His suggestions make sense. Ogden says companies must select charities based on their effectiveness.
Once they choose their nonprofit partners, he says companies should explain why they chose them and be specific about how much money is being raised. Most important, Ogden says companies must be exact about where the money is going and what it will do. Finally, companies should communicate after the program is complete to demonstrate to consumers that their commitment is ongoing.
I think Ogden is voicing the opinions of so many of us that work in the cause space day in and day out. I do have one caution for all of us. Since cause has just entered the mainstream of acceptability among a growing majority of companies, let's make sure we don't scare off those who have just entered the arena by making the cost of entry too high. We need to keep encouraging every company, large and small, to view cause as the win/win we all know it is. And we need to be willing to accept the fact all companies will not be ready to do it exactly how we would like them to do it from the start.
I just want to be sure that in the reality of the day to day battle that goes on in the marketplace, we don't discourage companies from employing cause marketing. Once we have them involved, we can make sure we show them the right way to do it. And what Ogden has spelled out is the right way.
Let's take a break from the chaos that is our political scene this week and pay homage to an authentic American, Paul Newman. Newman , one of the finest actors and humanitarians of any generation, died today at the age of 83.
We want you to be able to experience the re-brand today and share it with your friends, families, post it on your blogs, etc.
There are so many new things going on with the March of Dimes and here is how you can experience the changes for yourself.
Visit marchofdimesbaby.com to experience our newly created campaign site – a fascinating site geared toward what “mom” or soon to be “mom” is wondering about.
Visit marchforbabies.org to experience the name change and re-brand of WalkAmerica to March for Babies.
Visit the March of Dimes YouTube site to watch the television PSAs, Shoes, Soccer and Dumbbell and forward to all of your friends.
See page 89 of O Magazine for our first print PSA placement for March for Babies..the first time MOD has been included in O.
Google March of Dimes and see all the great media placements that are starting to come in about the re-brand and March of Dimes offering new resources for pregnancy and baby health!
The March of Dimes solved polio; has sponsored Nobel Prize winning research; and is out there fighting everyday for stronger, healthier babies. Every parent to be or parent in the world should turn to the March of Dimes to find out what they need to do to best ensure a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby. And every grandparent, uncle, aunt, sister, brother, neighbor or friend of those parents to be and parents should check out the March of Dimes too. It is a deserving and worthwhile cause.
My email rang yesterday with a request from my former colleague Andy and I am going to do my best to answer. The subject is Product Red and my opinion about it. I have been observing and thinking about this campaign as it has unfolded and here is what I think.
I'm disappointed. I'm a little mad. But I think cause branding as a strategy will survive the excesses of Product Red. I believe that because if you step back from the edge of the cliff and view the campaign, Product Red is not cause branding. It is a product promotion campaign. Granted, it is a big product promotion campaign executed on a global scale. But cause branding it is not.
When the news broke this week that Product Red had spent $100 million on marketing and returned $18 million to the cause of fighting AIDS in Africa, it was like a slap in the face to all of us who believe in cause branding not just as a marketing tool, but as a real way to make change in the world. The Better Business Bureau says charitable efforts must return a minimum of 65 percent of all proceeds to the cause to be considered successful. Product Red has a ways to go to meet the BBB minimum.
Product Red is all the rage right now. We know because clients we are working with are constantly referencing it with envy and admiration. It's big and bold and it has certainly captured the attention of the world. But thus far too much money has been spent for too little return and the celebrities involved have outshone the cause itself. That is why I don't want this program confused with true cause branding efforts.
Perhaps Product Red is creating a new category for which we will need to come up with a new moniker. Maybe we call it marketing cause instead of cause marketing. That may seem like semantics, but the simple juxtaposition of the two words illustrates that there is a difference between selling products to benefit a cause and creating a program that educates, enlightens and raises money for solutions to a societal problem.
I'm sure there are people who will disagree with my opinion. I may have even offended a potential client out there somewhere. I'm comfortable with that. I know from the great organizations that we are now working with that there is a great understanding of the power of true cause branding.
What do all of you think of Product Red? Let's keep this conversation going. I have my opinion, but I believe this is an important discussion for us to have if we care about cause, public relations and branding.
So now Andy, all we have to do is figure out how you can possibly dislike the Beatles.
As Forrest Gump might have said, causes and celebrities are like peas and carrots. They just go together. And I think it's a good thing. Sure there are times when some might seem to be doing it for the wrong reasons, but for the most part it is one of the best ways for a cause to get attention and money.
A new website called SixDegrees.org has recently launched. It shouldn't be difficult to figure out which star is behind it - Kevin Bacon. It's a cool site that has about 20 celebrities and their causes highlighted. You can learn more about each cause as well as donate to them. And as Kevin Bacon tells you in a welcoming video, you can become the "celebrity" for your own cause on the site. Great concept.
We have worked with celebrities in our cause programs at Barkley for more than a decade now. And we have new programs we are working on where we believe celebrities can play an important role. Whether we like to admit it or not, all of us like celebrities, whether they be in movies, music, sports or politics. We may not like all of them, but the ones we do like can influence how we think and what actions we take. Especially when it comes to helping us decide which causes we are going to support. I'm not suggesting it's the only factor, but celebrity influence does matter.
So if you can ignore the dumb and outrageous actions of the few Paris Hiltons in the world, the next time you see a celebrity pushing their favorite cause, give them a gold star. It's a good thing they are doing.
Thanks to Britt for pointing out SixDegrees.org.
As we prepare to give thanks in America this weekend, retailers are preparing for the beginning of their make it or break it time of the year. Tis the season to shop 'til you drop and if enough of us don't, then there will be a lot of slashing of prices and wrists in store aisles everywhere.
But let us remember it is the season of thanks and hope and charity as well. And as those of us involved in the cause arena know, the worlds of commerce and charity are colliding. Here is a great point of view from Tom Watson via the the Huffington Post. (Not that Tom Watson golfers.)
If you don't feel like linking, read this excerpt which isn't news to us in the choir, but there are still people who need to hear this:
".....philanthropies and charities are quite naturally spending more of budgets on marketing. Brand-building is growing in importance, as is long-term cultivation and donor loyalty. And increasingly, partnerships with consumer product companies can open new paths to funds. For non profits, cause marketing brings more than money, after all - it brings exposure.
On the other side, there are companies that genuinely have a a mission to change the world, that clearly buy into the notion of doing well while doing good. But others are driven by a purer market motivation. As their own marketers understand that the strength of the brand in some way hinges on public perception of "doing good," they're looking for ways to harness the philanthropic impulse in American society. Buy my product, and help others. It's got a ring.
The problem sometimes lies in convincing shareholders; why are we giving away some of our profits, they rightly ask. Go to them with a pure message of changing the world, and they'll slam the board room door in your face. But pitch the notion of extending the brand, aligning the product with the growing world of consumer philanthropy - well, there you've got something, son. Let's tell sales about this right away. According to the IEG Sponsorship Report, American companies spent nearly $1 billion on cause related marketing campaigns in 2004."
The train is leaving the station. Is your company going to be on it?
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
It's been a while since I last posted. I have some new responsibilities at our company and that has kept me otherwise occupied. More on that in a future post.
Meanwhile, Selfish Giving has joined the discussion regarding the merits of cause branding. I like his closing point:
"Inger suggests that if companies really want to help, they "should pay their fair share of taxes. Then education, health care, research and other priorities could receive greater funding, with no strings attached." Right. Given the choice between waiting for Uncle Sam to mail me my no-strings-attached check or cause marketing my way through Corporate America, I'll take the risk of one day having to admit that I only have myself to blame.
On a related note, our public relations firm had a great meeting last week with Julia Hood, editor of PRWeek magazine, to discuss the second installment of our joint cause branding survey. It will be published in late October. We discussed how we might be able to go in some new directions this year and in the future. We are all thinking about the various options we discussed and will be making a final decision on our direction for 2006 very soon.
Our objective is to keep providing new information and data that all of us committed to cause branding can use to improve our programs for everyone involved.
I reported to you a few weeks ago that our client, Lee Jeans, has named a new beneficiary to begin its second decade of fighting breast cancer. And today, one of the first benefits of that new partnership with the Entertainment Industry Foundation was announced.
Pierce Brosnan, one of Hollywood's biggest stars, will be the lead ambassador for Lee National Denim Day in 2006. One of the things that is great about this is that Brosnan is currently the Honorary Chair of EIF, so his willingness to be spokesperson this year is a great way to kick off the new partnership between Lee Jeans and EIF.
If you or your organization have participated in Lee National Denim Day over the past ten years, we offer our thanks. If you have never participated before, we invite you to check it out and consider coming on board in 2006.
For more details, go to DenimDay.com.