Staples Easy Button Campaign Benefiting Boys and Girls Clubs of America

Cause Branding® Made Easy

Years ago Carolyn Cone and her eponymous Boston agency Cone, Inc., started using the term “Cause Branding®:” branding cause marketing, as it were.

I don’t think she or Cone, Inc. had anything to do with Staples Easy Button campaign.
If not, then at least Staples owes a debt of gratitude to Carol Cone because this campaign is a fine example of Cause Branding®.

In the States there are three national office supply superstores: Staples, Office Depot and the much smaller OfficeMax. Staples invented the business model and remains the largest company as well as the class of the bunch. Its stock has outperformed its competitors… as well as the broader stock market… and its growth prospects are superior.

Staples has countless other competitors including wholesalers and regional and local suppliers and stores. It’s a crowded marketplace, in other words.

So Staples began to do what any self-respecting marketing-driven company would do, they begin to brand themselves to break free from the clutter. Their positioning is that using Staples services and products is “easy.” In a series of witty ads they show people in office and other settings hitting a big red Easy Button to cut through the usual baloney of office-life.

On the Staples website you can watch the commercials, download them to your iPod, view the outtakes, even play Easy Button-themed computer games.

Now in an homage to Cause Branding®, that same Easy Button is available for sale in Staples stores and online. The product, in English and Spanish versions, costs $4.98 and proceeds from the sale of the product benefit Boys and Girls Clubs of America up to $1 million a year.

When you press the Easy Button a voice intones in English (or Spanish if you bought that version), “That Was Easy.’

This is Cause Branding® the way Carol Cone dreamed it up. The customer gets a cute gimmick that’s been featured on the hit TV show The Office, the company’s branding is extended, the cause is supported in a meaningful way, and a halo extends from Boys and Girls Clubs of America to Staples.

That said, I have some quibbles. The proceeds language is weak and confusing. Better to just say what the donation will be. The point of purchase (POP) display in the stores, which is illustrated above, is subtle to the point of being underwhelming. And it’s not clear to me why Staples is running the promotion through their company foundation… the Staples Foundation for Learning… and giving that entity equal billing on their POP materials and their website. Truth be told, I struggle to find any external advantage to branding their foundation at all in the promotion. Finally, it wouldn’t hurt Staples to expend a little more effort explaining the mission of Boys and Girls Clubs and its impact on kids on the POP and website.

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