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An Interview with a Student Journalist II

This is the second half of an interview with University of Georgia Journalism Student Cathryn McIntosh on the subject of cause-related marketing. Read the first half here.

As before, I've edited this a little bit; this time because of some typos and to clarify some answers. Yikes! Needless to say as a former journalism student myself, I haven't been a good mentor when it comes to providing clean copy. So do what I say Cathryn, not what I do.

Ms. McIntosh's questions are in italics and my answers follow.

Do you think people take time to investigate the causes tied to the items they purchase? (i.e. A leopard printed bracelet “to save the leopards in Timbuktu?”)

That depends. By now I think we all know what the American Cancer Society is about or the Heart Association. Those causes either move you or they don’t. Newer entities like Susan G. Komen and Make-A-Wish probably have pretty good top of mind awareness, too. For the majority of us, those charities don’t require a lot of due diligence.
Likewise, if the price of the item in question is small, it’s not terribly rational to conduct lengthy research on whether or not the cause meets your definition of being truly worthy. If the waiter says, “When you buy our creme brulee, $0.50 goes to famine relief,” you don’t really need to first look at the charity’s 990 (tax return).
Oreck made a larger donation to hurricane relief when you bought one of their vacuums. I might look into an organization’s background if the donation were north of $25.

But maybe your question is, ‘can a cause marketing campaign help me to look at organization I’m unfamiliar with even though the donation in question is small?’ In that case, the answer is yes, if the campaign is designed with that intent and well-executed it can do just that.

What do you think is the most successful campaign right now? Why?

Before the news broke about RED I would have pointed the finger at them. There’s really two kinds of campaigns that I have a lot of praise for. First of all, the long-standing single-element campaigns: General Mills runs a good one for schools. Yoplait’s campaign for Susan G. Komen is pretty good, too. Then there’s the big omnibus campaigns with lots of moving parts. The Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign is admirable. Likewise Susan G. Komen’s efforts during breast cancer month (October) are admirable. There’s a lot to like about St. Jude’s Thanks & Giving effort, too. I live in Salt Lake City and I’ve always thought highly of the Utah Food Bank’s cause marketing campaign in advance of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
How do businesses decide which causes to support?
There’s a couple of approaches, at least.
  1. One is to take a strategic approach. Say you’re a food manufacturer, then a strong strategic approach is to support a hunger cause. For instance, Campbells does its Stamp Out Hunger campaign with the US Postal Service that benefits food banks nationwide.
  2. Another approach is to support the cause that generates the most passion among your ownership or employees. Munchkin Inc., which makes handy stuff for kids and parents, supports Susan G. Komen because the young wife of the VP of marketing contracted breast cancer.
  3. You could just be true to your brand. Ben & Jerry’s darn near has to support causes like the Waterwheel Foundation to be true to itself and to meet the expectations of its customers.
  4. They’re not as common, but there are instances of what I call ‘Business to Business Cause-Related Marketing.’ McLane, a distributor to the convenience store industry, supports CMN and has brought along a large handful of C-store chains to CMN. While I know for a fact that the people at McLane really have their hearts in this effort, they started doing B2B cause marketing because their customers... the c-stores... benefit from it.
  5. Find out what your audience is interested in or what issues they respond to and then find a corresponding charity.

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