I think that cause marketing, when done right, can be extremely positive. I once worked on Yoplait and saw first-hand how powerful their “save lids to save lives” campaign with the Susan G. Komen foundation was in raising awareness and creating donations.
But I’ve been feeling a little cause marketing fatigue lately. I like corporate philanthropy and I think it’s great that more and more companies and brands are embracing cause marketing. I think that business can be a real agent of change. But, it’s easy to come across as flippant, disingenuous, or gratuitous.
Consumers can see right through it. If done wrong, it can create a lot more skepticism than good will. Like this mock ad lampooning Product(Red) from buylesscrap.org. And the campaign Think Before You Pink.
I think the key is to pick a cause that fits with your brand, that fits with your consumers, and where you are able to uniquely do something that other brands can’t. And, or course, can make a genuine impact. I think it’s OK to benefit financially, but that can’t overshadow the event (such as spending much more on advertising than the actual donation).
I’ve blogged about the Big Knit before. They recruit people to knit little woolen hats for their smoothie bottles, which then appear in Sainsbury’s all across the UK. The funds then go to a charity called Age Concern to help elderly people during the cold winter months. Last year, over 230,000 hats were donated and put onto smoothies, resulting in a £115,000 donation.
It’s quirky, involves the people they are trying to help (who knit a lot of the hats themselves), fits totally with their brand and their consumers, addresses an often under-looked charity, and you absolutely remember that innocent was behind it.
And they didn’t run over-the-top advertising that costs more than the actual donation.