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An Interview with a Student Journalist Part I

Go Bulldogs!

After my interview with Jessica Bennett of Newsweek several weeks back, I was astonished when another journalist approached me for an interview, this time a student from the Henry W. Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia in lovely Athens.

Having trained as a journalist myself, I could hardly turn down the request from Cathryn McIntosh.

This time I've redacted the interview a little. Ms. McIntosh asked several personal questions which I can't believe too many of my readers are interested in.

What follows are the first half of Ms. McIntosh's questions in italics and my answers. I'll post the remaining half on Thursday.

How do you think cause marketing is affecting social/political activism in America today?

I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer this question. There are certainly people who think of cause marketing as shilling for immoral and faceless corporations. Others see cause marketing as a bald attempt to increase consumerism and thereby waste the planet and its resources. A Newsweek reporter asked me three questions along this vein: “Are we buying merely to clear our consciences?” “Is it still charity when one gives only to get?” “Is putting money toward a status symbol really socially responsible?” Read my responses here.

Do you think its impact is positive? Why?

This is sorta like asking if college is a positive thing. It’s education sure and that’s generally positive. But what about the epidemic of binge drinking on campuses? Or vivisection going on in the labs? Or high crime rates among scholarship athletes? Etc. You would probably say that even in light of all the negatives... real and perceived... that college is a good thing. I would say much the same about cause marketing. On the balance, it’s a good thing. A lot of negatives... real and perceived... have been recently raised about cause marketing. From my perspectives, here are the positives:
  1. It’s largely money raised from the “bottom of the pyramid,” to borrow from C.K. Prahalad’s book of the same name. Because it comes from the people the money is more democratic. People ‘vote’ with their purchases for the causes they care about. If they don’t vote for your cause in a cause marketing campaign, well then it’s [probably] time to take a hard look in the mirror.
  2. Because the money comes from the collective, nonprofits can use it the way the makes the most sense to them. I can explain this more if you like, but believe me when I say that nonprofits go in a lot of directions that they might not otherwise go except for the fact that they found a donor with a hot button.
  3. Others disagree, but I believe that cause marketing is one way that the people who work for sponsors to find meaning in their life. Viktor Frankl wrote that that’s what people are really looking for in life: not money or power or sex, but meaning.
  4. Correspondingly, the interaction with for-profits necessitated by cause marketing can help make nonprofits more sophisticated in their programs, management and fundraising.
  5. Cause marketing brings [a kind of] publicity to a cause that’s really not available any other way.

What group is the target market for cause marketing? Is there a type of person more likely to (literally) buy into cause branded products?

Surveys suggest that women are more responsive to cause marketing appeals than men and that young people more so than older ones. But I expect a well-crafted campaign with the appropriate cause could do well with almost any audience.

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