Multicultural Cause-Related Marketing Part I

New reader Gabriel Q., who works for a prominent multi-cultural consultancy in California, asks if I’ve ever posted on the topic of multi-cultural cause marketing, specifically cause-related marketing targeted to Hispano/Latino audiences.

It’s an interesting topic to be sure, but I had to confess that I have never written on the subject and I don’t recall ever seeing any studies with regard to multi-cultural in general or Latino/Hispano cause marketing specifically.

In this two-part post I’ll address about the topic of multi-cultural marketing through the case of two ‘Muslim colas.’ On Tuesday I’ll tackle Gabriel’s direct question of Hispano/Latino cause marketing.

Three ‘Muslim colas’ were launched in Europe in 2002-2003, two of which got an astonishing amount of fanfare for their cause marketing efforts and their uncompromising anti-Western marketing positioning. To get a feel for how much publicity they got, just type ‘Muslim cola’ into your browser.

The colas were Mecca Cola, launched in France in 2002 and now headquartered in Dubai, and Qibla Cola, launched in the UK in 2003, but currently in administration (what we in the States call bankruptcy) and presently operating as separate entities in Malaysia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Both promised to donate 10 percent of net profits to humanitarian causes, notably Palestinian and Muslim charities.

The third ‘Muslim cola’ Evoca, was launched in London in 2003 without any cause tie-ins. All three compete with two more established Muslim colas, Parsi and Zam Zam Colas, both founded in pre-revolutionary Iran and available throughout much of the Muslim world.

It’s hard to draw any conclusions about multi-cultural cause-related marketing from the examples of Qibla and Mecca. Qibla’s founders blame their company’s UK failure on anti-competitive practices from their competitors, presumably Coke and Pepsi.

Without a formal study, who knows which part of Qibla/Meccas’ positioning holds the most appeal for Muslim consumers, the anti-western rhetoric or the cause-related marketing overlay? By contrast Evoca’s positioning is based on the presence of ‘black seed’ flavoring… which draws praise from the Prophet Mohammed himself as a curative… along with the fact that it’s made with natural mineral water.

The failure of the Qibla and Mecca colas in Europe raises a tough question. We know some individuals are more responsive to cause marketing than others. Could it also be that some cultures are less responsive to cause marketing than others?

I think it almost goes without saying that cause-related marketing requires a consumer culture. It’s hard to imagine cause marketing being successfully employed among hunter-gatherer societies, for instance. Likewise, I suspect that if you’re living hand-to-mouth cause marketing holds less appeal than if your situation is more comfortable. So maybe cause marketing wouldn’t do so well in large swaths of sub-Saharan Africa, for instance.

Last tough question. Did Mecca and Qibla colas fail in Europe because Muslims there aren’t responsive to cause marketing?

I doubt it. There’s a thousand reasons why consumer businesses fail and cause marketing probably doesn’t even make the list.

Moreover, I did see a study by Mahmood M. Hajjat, PhD, an associate professor of marketing at Sultan Qaboos University in Oman. In the experiment Professor Hajjat studied donation amounts in cause marketing and he found that when a company and a cause were a good fit, higher donation amounts lead higher response rates. His test subjects were students who, I presume, were mainly Muslim.

On Tuesday, Latino/Hispano cause marketing.