Alfred Hitchcock, the legendary filmmaker, used to speak of a movie's 'MacGuffin,' or plot device. "In crook stories it is always the necklace and in spy stories it is always the papers," he said.
In short, a MacGuffin is a mechanical device that impels action.
Now for Hitchcock, the MacGuffin was often no more than a device, one that he often neglected after the action got going. But I'm not going to use the word that way. When I use the word I mean, what is in your cause campaign that makes the target audience act?
At first blush you might say that the cause or perhaps the offer is the MacGuffin. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, cause-related marketing campaigns sprouted up spontaneously and they worked. The cause was the MacGuffin in those cases.
The same could probably be said of several breast cancer charities and one or two environmental charities; the cause by itself impels action.
But not every charity that's worthy of a cause-related marketing campaign has enough punch, by itself, to impel action.
What might the MacGuffin be for charities like that?
It might be celebrity involvement. Singer-actress Jessica Simpson brings a lot of young people to Operation Smile who would not otherwise pay attention to a cause like that. Of course there are hundreds of other examples.
Firedog Across America, which I profiled on this blog, has a MacGuffin built into in its nomination process. Nominators are asked to visit a local firehouse before writing an essay in support of the firehouse. The MacGuffin is that the 10 people who nominate the 10 finalist firehouses get a $10,000 'tech makeover' courtesy of Firedog.
The MacGuffin could be the media component of the campaign. That, along with all the celebrities and breadth of scope, is the MacGuffin of the expansive Red campaign.
Now, a MacGuffin is no guarantee of success; not every Hitchcock film was a critical or popular success. Nor does the absence of a MacGuffin ensure failure.
But if your cause-related marketing campaign or social marketing effirst is missing a MacGuffin, it will probably underperform. In other words, even if you have a cause you think will draw and an offer that your target market will likely respond to, you may not be done.
You probably need a MacGuffin, too.
Have a favorite MacGuffin you'd care to share? Please comment.