Hobby Lobby and Christian Cause Marketing

Higher Cause Marketing

Let’s try a thought experiment.

Suppose you’re a dominant retail player in a fast-growing $30 billion segment. Suppose your founder and CEO was number 242 on the Forbes list of richest Americans, with an estimated net worth of some $1.5 billion. Suppose you had 386 outlets in 30 heartland states. Suppose your sales are expected to come in around $1.8 billion in 2007. Suppose you have your own in-house ad agency and a history of advertising both weekly specials along with holiday time image campaigns.

Now suppose your company is avowedly Christian and everybody knows it.

Do you/should you do Christian-themed cause-related marketing? If yes, who would your partners be?

This thought was sparked by the ad above run on Easter Sunday by Hobby Lobby, the privately-held retailer founded and owned by David Green, age 64.

Since confession is good for the soul, let me confess that I’ve never been in a Hobby Lobby store and I don’t know if they do any cause marketing or not.

But the ad… a kind of throwback to 30 years ago when every newspaper in America would print a Christian sermon on Easter Sunday… made me wonder if Hobby Lobby could or should do Christian cause marketing.

A few more pertinent facts. Hobby Lobby is one of the few retailers of its size in America that still observes the traditions of the blue laws and doesn’t open its stores on Sunday.

Its Statement of Purpose includes the following:

“Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating in a manner consistent with Biblical principles…Serving our employees and their families by establishing a work environment and company policies that build character, strengthen individuals, and nurture families. Providing a return on the owners’ investment, sharing the Lord’s blessings with our employees, and investing in our communities.”

Hobby Lobby lists on its website the ministries it supports among them the Bible translation charity Wycliffe, and a Christ-centered boarding school for troubled kids called Harbor House.

Finally, Hobby Lobby gets so many requests for help from charities and worthy individuals and institutions that it feels compelled to put up this disclaimer on its website:

“The owners of Hobby Lobby wish it were possible to respond affirmatively to the numerous appeals for contributions that are received each day from the hundreds of communities that we serve. Knowing that it is impossible for us to contribute merchandise and or funds to all the fine groups that are a part of each city, Hobby Lobby gives special consideration to churches, schools and national charitable organizations such as Boy Scouts, & Girl Scouts by extending a 10% discount on merchandise purchased by these groups. In this manner we offer our support to these local organizations.”

Given all this, could or should Hobby Lobby take on Christian cause marketing relationships and campaigns in their stores?

I think they could, but they’d have to be very careful about what the promoted products are and who their charity partners are. Otherwise there could be some denominational problems. As for prospective charity partners it seems to me that their best bet might be international relief and organizations, since Christian relief has such a strong and well-known record abroad.

But should they? My answer is yes again, if it’s right. Hobby Lobby’s statement of purpose includes operating on Biblical principles like charity and strengthening employee’s lives. The right cause marketing campaign could do both.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to comment.

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