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Interview On Cause Marketing With a Trade Magazine Reporter

Last week I did “email interview” on cause-related marketing with Carol Gustafson, a writer for W&E Today, a trade magazine for the western and English equine industry.

She asked me five questions. I’ll post the answers to the first two questions on today’s post, and the remaining on next Tuesday’s post. Carol’s questions are in italics, followed by my answers.

1. With money tight and ad budgets shrinking, why should a business, especially a smaller one, include cause-related marketing in its promotional mix?

Old time marketers used to lament that the average person saw perhaps 250 commercial messages a day. Nowadays, the estimates range from a few hundred to perhaps 3,000! I expect there’s a lot of shock value built into these estimates. But as Seth Godin puts it in his landmark book Permission Marketing, the biggest challenge for marketers today isn’t the number of commercial messages per se.

Instead, it’s the number of messages combined with the fact that most commercials are based on interrupting people doing something they prefer. It’s hard to heat someone up to your commercial message if they’re cool to you because you interrupted their show or game.

Moreover, consumers are fighting back and they have more tools than ever. They’ve long enjoyed the power of the remote. Now they have the Tivo and recordable DVRs and Slingboxes. They zip past your commercial and time-shift your programming.

A whole generation gets their national news from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and their entertainment from YouTube. Online banner ads are dinosaurs. Search marketing can be effective, but if you don’t land on the first page, you might as well be on the last. Local media… TV, radio, newspaper, yellow pages… can still work very well, but with its uncanny ability to measure results, Internet marketing methods steal market share from the lazier local media every quarter.

Marketing today is like New Year’s Eve in Times Square; noisy, crowded, hard to navigate, and full of people reaching for your wallet.

Cause-related marketing is no panacea. But it does offer a number of advantages that help businesses and marketers cut through the commercial clutter.
  • Well designed and executed cause-related marketing campaigns can push the sales needle.
  • The practice is well-known… even expected… especially among young people and women [more on this in Tuesday’s post].
  • Cause-related marketing heighten customer loyalty.
  • It boosts public image and gives companies a new story to tell to the press and to other key constituencies.
  • Cause-related marketing helps build employee morale and loyalty.
  • It helps improve employee profitability, skills and teamwork.
  • Cause-related marketing can improve employee recruiting and retention and build a pipeline of talent.
2. How should a business go about selecting a cause or charity?

There’s two basic approaches here. The first is called strategic cause-related marketing. If you’re a food company then a strategic fit would be a food bank or hunger charity. If you sell tack and feed, then a strategic fit might be a horse rescue charity. In general, the research suggests that strategic cause-related marketing makes the most sense to customers.

The second approach is to find charities that your internal audiences… employees, management, customers, vendors, boardmembers, etc… respond to or could get passionate about. That’s why you see Target supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to name one prominent example, even though they’re not a strategic fit in the usual sense.

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