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World-Beating Cause Marketing II

Fortunes at the Bottom of the Pyramid

The four campaigns we talked about in Thursday’s post are all classic examples of ‘the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid’ thinking.

The book of the same name by University of Michigan scholar C.K. Prahalad, lays out how technology… and new ways of thinking about customers… can enable companies to deliver products and services of value to the four billion people across the globe who live on less than $2 a day.

In a similar way, these four single-element campaigns raise big money, not by asking for large donations, but by asking for small ones. The US Postal Service Breast Cancer Semipostal Stamp generates just six pennies at a pop! The BoxTops for Education campaign from General Mills just 10 cents.

Needless to say, this flies in the face of conventional wisdom in fundraising which goes something like this: ‘it’s just as much work to ask for a modest donation as a big one, so you might as well ask for a big one.’ In other words, focus on the top of the pyramid.

That’s rational thinking. But it leaves money on the table.

What can we learn from these four world-beating, large-scale, long-standing, big-money, single-element cause-related marketing campaigns?

At least the following:

1). Earnestness is fine. But a sense of humor doesn’t hurt. The Red Nose Day in the U.K. has a very serious mission; alleviating poverty in Africa and helping the disadvantaged in the UK. But Red Nose Day is fun and light-hearted. Even when they show the people being helped, they avoid taking the pity approach.

2). The best campaigns have a media component. Labels for Education is in almost every FSI Campbell’s puts out (see above). BoxTops is on nearly every box that leaves General Mills, year-round. Red Nose Day takes over the BBC programming for an entire night and is promoted on-air before and after Red Nose Day is over. Many US Post Offices perpetually leave up posters for the breast cancer stamp.

3). Expand your ‘circle of trust.’ General Mills could have been content to keep their campaign entirely in house. Instead they broadened to include other non-competing brands. Ziploc and others like it because they get to participate in a proven campaign at low cost. General Mills likes it because it expands the reach of its BoxTops brand. Schools and students reap the rewards of General Mills outside the box thinking, pun intended.

4). You may have to move heaven and earth or worse…US Congress… to put your campaign in place. Labels for Education put its whole merchandise catalog online. BoxTops for Education conducts all its business via the Internet, except the shipping of boxtops. Red Nose Day puts together a monster comedy show on television, plus it suggests dozens if not hundreds of ways for regular folks to do grassroots, plus it has to have in place themed merchandise, drop off points and donation collection procedures. No wonder they only do it every other year. In order for the US Postal Service to charge more than the standard rate for first class postage it literally required an act of Congress.

5). If the cause has real appeal, you don’t have to offer pricing discounts. When cause-related marketing is ultimately realized it preserves pricing power. The breast cancer stamp costs more than regular first class postage, not less. And still they’ve sold so many that $52 million has been raised. All you brand managers think about that for a moment. All you charity marketers ask yourself if your brand is that strong.

6). Big numbers and technology are your friends. The US Postal Service annually prints 35 billion stamps. That’s a big number. There are about 70 million schoolkids in the United States. That’s a big number too. The power at the bottom of the pyramid is the power of large numbers. Technology can help you effectively and efficiently reach down to the bottom of the pyramid. When Campbell’s first started Labels for Education, they had to print and distribute their catalog. No longer. Red Nose Day allows you to make your pledge and fulfill it online.


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