Effective Cause-Related Marketing is Just Blocking and Tackling

The Devil (in the Red Dress) is in the Details

I was at Rite Aid yesterday and bought a paper red dress for $1. It’s a small part of the American Heart Association’s admirably ambitious Go Red for Women campaign going on right now during "heart month."

Heart Disease, not breast cancer, is the number one killer of women. So to take some of the steam out of the many breast cancer charities, the Heart Association is doing for February what the breast cancer charities have done for October; brand it as their own.

And so, on the air, in retail outlets of all kinds, at events, in the print and electronic media Go Red for Women is almost omnipresent in the United States.

For instance, you can buy a Go Red themed book called “Kiss & Tell” in Macys stores. Kellogg’s has specially-packaged boxes of their breakfast cereal Smart Start in stores now. The jeweler Swarovski has a Go Red pendant on sale. Rite Aid… with 3325 stores in 27 states… and Key Bank… with 950 branches in 16 states… are both selling versions of the paper heart illustrated above. Go Red was even at Fashion Week in New York City with a celebrities modeling… what else?… designer red dresses.

There’s so much I can’t even list it all. But whoever’s running the Go Red campaign (the Heart Association calls it a “movement”), is smart enough to include an emotional component. Women are invited to share their stories online of how heart disease has affected them.

I am a huge advocate of these omnibus efforts (although certainly not every charity could pull it off). These large-scale efforts create a multiplier-effect that makes them bigger when combined than they would be separately. Brava, I say.

However, when I purchased the paper dress the clerk at Rite Aid tried scanning the icon; there’s a UPC code on the back. But it wouldn’t scan. The code as printed was wrong. “Oops,” she said, and she grabbed another piece of paper by the register with the correct UPC code and scanned it. I asked her about it and she said that rather than waste all the paper red dresses, they were simply scanning the correct code from the other paper.

While I admire the resourcefulness, it was a hiccup in an otherwise commendable campaign. The fact is, cause-related marketing, cause marketing, social marketing (or whatever you call it) is about 10 percent strategy and 90 percent execution. It’s mostly just basic 'blocking and tackling'.


For my readers outside North America, that's figure of speech from American-style football. (After all, the Super Bowl was on Sunday). It means that to play the game well you have to master the fundamentals.


In other words, someone at the Heart Association should have checked to make sure the paper red dresses had the right UPC code before they were shipped to Rite Aid.

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