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 will also pay for the training of one Burkina Faso mason for each 100,000 people that visit their website between now and July 1, 2008. Yesterday, I was visitor 5,149.

Using Voute Nubienne method means that these aren’t normal Burkina Faso homes.

They’re better.

Homes in Burkina Faso are typically built with metal roofs, which are expensive and turn baking hot in the Sub-Saharan summers. The vaulted roofs (see above) are notably cooler. Metal roofs also require timber for support, which is in chronically short supply in the Colorado-sized country of 13 million people. Finally, the Voute Nubienne technique helps obviate the problem with the mud brick homes literally dissolving into dust within a homeowner’s lifetime.

While many of the people of Burkina Faso are capable of creating their own bricks and even laying them, the vaulted roofs require masons trained in the 3,000 year-old craft. Cash is in short supply in Burkina Faso… metal roofs might require several year’s savings, for instance… so the barter economy there is very lively. Right now the trained masons are likely to take barter in payment rather than cash money. And the masons typically take on apprentices, meaning they train the next generation of masons in the Voute Nubienne technique.

I like this campaign a lot. The Californians that buy LEED certified homes in urban Sacramento are almost certainly the same kind of people who would donate to a cause like the Association la Voute Nubienne. LJ Urban oughta email the development’s brochure to Daryl Hannah now.

LJ Urban’s website has page devoted to answering the questions skeptics like me. I appreciate that. And I marvel at the genius of the architects who have stepped forward to address some real-world challenges.

If I had one suggestion it would be to make the Do Some Good Now website easier and cleaner to navigate. Nowadays people could come directly to almost any page in your website… they won’t necessarily enter through your front page.

And so every page on the site has to be self-contained enough so that visitors can quickly understand and navigate the content.

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