Cause-Related Marketing Not Meant to Raise Money

Cause-related marketing is about motivating people to change their behavior. Frequently the motivating carrot involves money going to a cause. But not always.

For instance, in the campaign on the left from T-Mobile, the American mobile phone company and a division of the European Union’s largest telecommunication company, Deutsch Telekom AG.

This is from the newsletter called ‘scoop’ that came with T-Mobile’s March 2008 billing statement.

When you switch to paperless billing, T-Mobile, in conjunction with the Arbor Day Foundation, will plant a tree in your name in a blighted area of the United States. The Arbor Day Foundation, a tree-planting charity headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska, calls it the Restoration Project.

The tree planting is concentrated in the region around New Orleans devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and areas of Southern California which were denuded of trees by the fires of 2007.

The creative, from the March 2008 statement is clean and bright, if a little visually cliché. I’d prefer a photo of an actual tree-planting event with volunteers scattered all over a mountain or up and down a New Orleans street. And the offer is clear and easy to understand. It’s a simple matter to switch to paperless billing at the T-Mobile site by following the link on the page.

I have two nits to pick, however:
  1. Normally with cause-related marketing I advocate a deadline to impel action. And indeed the deadline to this offer is April 25. But in a case like this where T-Mobile would really prefer to have all its subscribers switch to paperless billing, the deadline seems more artificial than usual. Maybe the one-tree offer could be ongoing… like Campbell’s Labels for Education campaign… while this offer could be for five trees to be planted if you sign up before April 25.
  2. T-Mobile’s website must have a cajillion pages, so finding the campaign is a challenge if you don’t go straight to the sign up page. You can search on ‘Arbor Day,’ and ‘tree planting,’ ‘paperless billing’ and find the campaign, but not ‘New Orleans,’ or ‘Southern California’ or ‘plant.’ That’s not T-Mobile’s fault, that’s just the inherent weakness of current search engines. The solution is to give the campaign some presence on the home page.

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