Making the Language of Your Cause Marketing Appeal Clear and Concrete

An ad in the May 2010 issue of the 'Yoga Journal' offered an unspecified donation to a yoga charity when you bought a pair of yoga pants from Lucy.com. The donation went to Off the Mat, Into the World, a nonprofit co-founded by the model in the ad, Seane Corn. The ad now resides in the Alden Keene Cause Marketing Database.

‘Off the Mat’ is a fun name, suggesting that there’s other things in life that reward the participant in addition to yoga. So what does Off the Mat do? The ad says OTM’s mission is “inspiring conscious, sustainable community service through the power of yoga.”

I know what community service is and I understand the words conscious and sustainable in a broad way. But when they’re all combined in that sentence it seems like nonsense. It’s hard to imagine 'unconscious community service,' for instance. In this sentence it’s as though plain English got tied up like a pretzel.

I suspect that for many of the readers of Yoga Journal words like conscious and sustainable used in this way represent a cant or argot. That is, a phraseology or idiom particular to their world.

It’s probably fair to say that few non-yoga practitioners, like myself, pick up the Yoga Journal and consequently don't know the subtexts of the culture. However, just because you have your own idiom and media that caters to you is no reason to make your ads vague and unclear.

Brothers Chip and Dan Heath explain why in their fine book 'Made to Stick.' Concrete language, grounded in sensory reality, is more memorable than any argot. “It’s the difference between reading about a wine (‘bold but balanced’)” the Heaths wrote in an article about their book, “and tasting it… We talk about the ‘Velcro Theory of Memory.’ In brief, this concept says that the more sensory ‘hooks’ we put into an idea, the better it will stick.”

Just as screws hold better than nails, clarity and concreteness give our memories more to hold on to than does subtext and idiom.

Cause marketing trades on clarity and concreteness. So the vague language about portion of the proceeds is not only unclear, it's unhelpful to the appeal.

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