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Black Swan Cause Marketing

For years Europeans and the Romans before them presumed that there was no such a thing as a black swan because all the known swans in the Old World and the New were white. As a result, the aphorism “all swans are white” signified something that was obviously true.

Finally European explorers sighted a black swan in Australia in 1697 and a pair were captured in 1726. Turns out black swans are quite common in Australia and New Zealand.

About that David Hume…the Scottish logician-philosopher who lived 1711 to 1776 …wrote: “No amount of observations of white swans can allow the inference that all swans are white, but the observation of a single black swan is sufficient to refute that conclusion.”

In the hands of logicians like Hume and mathematicians-investors like Nassim Taleb, the author of the recent book on randomness called “The Black Swan,” the possibility of ‘black swans’ is a problem of logical and probability and for Taleb especially, a monumental challenge in generating reliable investment returns.

But I’m not logician, philosopher, mathematician or investor (per se).

So I ask instead, where’s the black swan of cause marketing? That is, what’s possible and likely but hasn’t been seen yet?

Here’s what raised the question for me.

American Express is currently running a promotion for members called The Members Project. When American Express Card holders register, $1 is put into a pile of money that is capped at $5 million. Card holders are also encouraged to submit ideas that fall into one of eight categories… including an ‘other’ category… that will be funded by the $5 million. As of this writing there are 3542 projects in the hopper. Members vote on the projects through several rounds leading to final elimination on August 7, 2007.

The ‘winner’ doesn’t get the $5 million. Instead the money goes to the nonprofit organization or corporation that American Express determines can best execute the winning idea, making The Members Project a hybrid cause-related marketing campaign.

The black swan question came to me because of the way Amex is promoting this. I saw it in a banner ad at Yahoo or some such portal and followed the link. Once I got there I liked the idea. It’s nicely set up as a social marketing campaign. You can set up a RSS feed to track ideas you like for instance, and ratings and comments fields.

Then I clicked on a link called ‘Outreach Tools,” which takes you to a page where you can place banners or badges into your site. There’s one illustrated above. So far so good. When you click on that banner it goes to the main Members Project site.

But that’s hardly ideal.

If I had submitted a project I would want the banner to take people directly to my project. Then I would use my blogs, e-newsletters, email lists and other contact media to send friends and others to vote for my idea and help advance it through the rounds. As near as I can tell The Members Project doesn’t offer this option short of pasting a link in.

There’s a black swan out there when it comes to social media and cause-related marketing, I just haven’t seen it yet

If you know of cause-marketing black swan, use the comment feature below or email it to me directly at aldenkeeneatgmaildotcom.

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