Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2008

'Free' and Cause-Related Marketing: Part II

Tuesday’s post was about the increasing use of ‘free’ as a business model. No less a company than Google is built on ‘free.’ So are Craigslist and Facebook and Flickr.

And free is coming on like a lion.

AOL used to be primarily a subscription-based service. But every year their subscriber base shrinks. Nowadays, as a free portal, is the fourth most-visited Web property. The mighty Wall Street Journal’s online version had a subscription model. But Rupert Murdoch, who recently purchased the Journal, announced that it will soon be largely free. It will no doubt grow as a result.

As Chris Anderson writes in his cover story, “Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business,” in the March 2008 Wired magazine:
“People think demand is elastic and that volume falls in a straight line as price rises, but the truth is that zero is one market and any other price is another. In many cases, that's the difference between a great market and none at all.”

“The huge psychological gap between "alm…

'Free' and Cause-Related Marketing: Part I

Of a sudden one of the hottest marketing concepts around is ‘free.’ But is free sustainable or even possible for organizations that are already not-for-profit?

I’ll tackle that question in Thursday’s post.

But first, what is ‘free’?

On a recent show, Oprah told her viewers that Suze Orman’s book Women and Money could be downloaded for free from Oprah’s site for 33 hours. During that time 1.1 million copies were downloaded in English and another 19,000 in Spanish.

The graphic above… from TitleZ via the blog… shows that sales of the book on Amazon improved dramatically after the giveaway.

That example comes from author Chris Anderson, who says that Free is being driven by the declining costs of digital processing, storage and bandwidth. Anderson, who is the editor of Wired magazine and the author of influential book “The Long Tail,” has another book coming out soon on the business value of giving it away for free.

What other examples are there? Google, which gives away software, …

Big Blue’s Case for Corporate Social Responsibility

According to a recent survey, 68 percent of business leaders are using corporate social responsibility (CSR) to create new revenue streams and 54 percent believe that their CSR endeavors are giving their companies a competitive edge.

These and other findings come from a report issued Feb 12 by the IBM Institute for Business Value, a unit of Big Blue’s business consulting division. The Institute surveyed 250 business leaders worldwide and found that businesses are increasingly using the elements of corporate social responsibility to differentiate themselves from competitors, lower costs, and bolster their bottom line.

“CSR is no longer viewed as just a regulatory or discretionary cost,” the report’s authors, George Pohle and Jeff Hittner write in the introduction, “but an investment that brings financial returns.”

The survey suggests that momentum is gaining in CSR. The survey identified five areas where companies have ‘focused their CSR activities’ … regulatory compliance, strategic phil…

A Charity’s Responsibilities to a Sponsor in Trouble

What responsibility, if any, does a charity have when a faithful sponsor faces bad press or worse?

The last charity I worked for as an employee…Operation Kids… was a startup children’s charity organized as a federated nonprofit. A little more than eight years after its founding, Operation Kids is now on solid ground. But like all startups, there were some moments when it was touch and go; when the charity could have as easily failed as succeeded.

It’s fair to say that say that Operation Kids would not be in same the place were it not for an early corporate sponsor, itself a startup called XanGo. XanGo is a multi-level marketing organization (MLM) that sells a supplemental juice drink made from the Asian fruit called mangosteen.

It’s beyond the scope of this blog to talk about the relative merits of the MLM business model or of XanGo as a health elixir. Suffice it say that XanGo has hundreds of thousands of adherents worldwide who have made their choice.

Let me also stipulate that by all a…

How to Sign up for the Cause-Related Marketing GoogleGroup

Mariana asks how to sign up for the Cause-Related Marketing GoogleGroup.

It's simple, just send an email to me, Paul Jones, with your name, email address, city, state (if applicable) and country.

I don't sell your email address to anyone. And I ask for your name and location only because it helps me know who my audience is.

So to subscribe, send an email to: And of course you'll need to replace the 'at' with an @. I do spell it out that way to keep the spam at a minimum.

Cause-Related Marketing Home Sales

Buy a house, give a house

On January 10, 2008, I highlighted the streamlined cause-related marketing campaign of TOMS Shoes, whereby for every pair of their Argentine-inspired alpargatas shoes you buy, another pair goes to needy kids in places like Africa and South America.

Now drawing inspiration directly from TOMS Shoes… and with just a little bit of puffery… LJ Urban says that when you buy one of their 35 LEED ND certified homes from their ‘Good eco-community’ in urban Sacramento, California, a home gets built in Burkina Faso. LJ Urban calls the campaign, ‘Do Some Good Now.’

In fact, LJ Urban, an eco-real estate developer in Sacramento, pays for the training of masons in Burkina Faso in a technique called Voute Nubienne. It includes using locally-made baked earthen bricks, making vaulted ceilings using an ancient Egyptian practice, and a locally-sustainable way of sealing the bricks against water. The training is provided by the French nonprofit, Association la Voute Nubienne.

LJ Urban…

Advice To a Promotional Products Company

[Blogger's Note: What follows is an email exchange between Jack, who owns a promotional products business in Greensboro, North Carolina, and your's truly.]

Hi Paul

I have a small promotional products logowear business and want to donate a portion of sales to my client’s charities. How do I get started? Please add me to your GoogleGroup.


Hi Jack:

To really answer your question I’d need to know what your goals are.

Warm regards,


My ultimate goal is to donate a significant portion of my profits to my client’s charities. In order to do that I have to generate enough cash to sustain my company and provide for my family. In other words you have to create a healthy company first so you can be around long enough to make a difference.

The great and somewhat unique thing about my business, my clients who purchase their products from me, through co-branding promote themselves at the same time they are promoting their causes.

I’m writing to find out how other companies have be…

Rosa Loves T-Shirts for a Good Cause

Cause-related marketing from the avant-garde

Founded by an avant-garde group of artists-designers-developers, Rosa Loves is a proto-nonprofit charity that sells limited-edition t-shirts meant to raise money and tell personal stories of the dispossessed in North America, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

On the outside, the t-shirts feature art meant to illustrate the stories. Inside the t-shirts… placed over the heart… is a printed summary version of the story.

The wonderfully evocative t-shirt above illustrates the story of grandmother… raising three grandchildren alone… who lost her home of 27 years to fire.

The t-shirts are made in men’s and women’s fitted sizes in limited editions for $25. Sixty percent of the purchase price goes to the cause it illustrates. The edition is limited by the number of t-shirts it takes to reach their fundraising goal.

The t-shirts are sold online at and through select retail outlets.

The problem with these for-profit social entrepreneurs is that…

Do Motives Matter in Corporate Social Responsibility?

Words I Meantto Say

On Friday, Feb 1 I was a panelist at the Global Philanthropy Symposium sponsored by the University of Utah Law School and moderated by the school’s energetic young dean, Hiram Chodosh.

There were two sessions: Public/private Healthcare Initiatives and Microfinance/ Corporate Social Responsibility.

One of the subtexts of the second session in particular was that how a company gave was as important as what or how much it gave. Or, as one of the other panelists put it directly: “I have concluded that there is no altruism in corporate philanthropy.”

Maybe not. But does that matter? That’s what Brady Stuart…a second-year law school student whose précis of the history of corporate giving in the United States had introduced the session… asked me and another panelist over lunch.

His question, I think, was prompted by this discussion about the ‘why’ of corporate giving. During the session I made the point that while direct corporate donations to charities have been legal in the …