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Cause Marketing and Galvanic Corrosion


Are there some cause marketing elements that should not be placed together in the same campaign? Or, if your company has a cause campaign with one charity are there other charities you should not support with a cause campaign?

These and other questions came to me recently while watching roofers replace the roof on a neighbor's house. They put copper flashing around the chimney and then very carefully nailed it down with expensive copper nails.

Anyone who has every roofed a house knows why. If you used the same galvanized nails that you use to nail down shingles they would react with the copper. First the nails would corrode and then the copper flashing in the area where the nail had been would corrode. It’s the result of an electrochemical reaction called galvanic corrosion.

You see the same effect in the kitchen when you bake salty foods like lasagna in a steel pan and cover it with aluminum foil. Leave it on too long and the foil will get pitted where it touches the lasagna. That’s galvanic corrosion, too.

You don’t have to know your anodes from cathodes to realize that galvanic corrosion is not far removed from the process whereby batteries create electricity.

But back to the question.

If you’re a company and your cause-related marketing mix included promotions for two different charities, would it create energy or corrosion?

For instance, right now Rite Aid, the large drug chain, is doing a paper icon campaign for Children’s Miracle Network (CMN). [CMN’s coupon icon is above along with CMN’s generic table tent on display on Rite Aid’s counter.] Barely two months ago Rite Aid did a similar campaign for the American Heart Association. Do they risk “icon campaign fatigue” or does the familiarity with the campaign improve results for everyone?

If you’re a charity is it prudent or boneheaded to try to sell cause marketing sponsorships to companies that compete with your current sponsors?

If you’re an agency doing cause-related marketing promotions would you turn down any business from a client’s competitor? OK, dumb question.

My answer is that it certainly could be corrosive for firms to do too many of the same kinds of campaigns in quick succession. Likewise, I would be very cautious about taking cause sponsorships to competitors of my existing sponsors. Certainly I would make sure I got a buy-off from existing sponsors before talking to their competitors.

But I remember Tom Smith... who was a long-time CEO at Food Lion... would call his competitors on behalf of Children’s Miracle Network because supporting CMN “was the right thing for the grocery business to do.”

The result of that kind of generosity of spirit is that CMN has long had a grocer campaign that crossed many boundaries and includes many competitors, even though CMN’s biggest sponsor has long been Wal-Mart, which competes with every retailer in America.

Whaddya think?

Feel free to comment.

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