Cause-Related Marketing for the Beautiful People

H.L. Mencken, the legendary cynic, wrote, “nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” Recently James Surowiecki, in his book “The Wisdom of Crowds” says that’s probably false of Americans (or any group in the aggregate).

However, notwithstanding that, I do believe there’s a corollary that holds up very well: “you’ll make a mint catering to people who feel like outsiders.” Witness the success of the Harry Potter books and movies, for instance.

And so it’s with mixed feelings that I review this campaign from the website Net-A-Porter.com. Net-A-Porter.com, part fashion magazine and part catalog, supports Fashion Targets Breast Cancer (FTBC), a fundraising campaign of the Council of Fashion Designers of America Foundation.

There are also FTBC organizations in the UK, Ireland, Australia, Greece, Japan, Canada, and Portugal orgainized under different auspices. Since 1994, FTBC has raised more than $40 for breast cancer charities in 13 countries, the ad informs us.

The FTBC fundraising approach is that they invite a prominent designer to design some kind of clothing using the FTBC logo and then sell it at tony prices. The polo shirts at left are designed by Ralph Lauren and retail at the Net-A-Porter.com website for $75.

Now, I have nothing against willowy supermodels in bikinis and skin-tight shirts. I like Ralph Lauren. As a cause marketer I admire the price FTBC is asking for the shirts.

But something about this ad and this cause marketing approach makes me feel like an outsider, like an awkward high school boy who can’t get even a nod from the pretty prom queen.

So I ask, where’s the chic products for us fashion outsiders?

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