Non-Transactional Cause Marketing

Repeat after me: cause-related marketing is not always about the money.

You know what I mean. We tend to think of cause marketing as a transaction. You buy a carton of Yoplait yogurt, lick the lid, send it in and a dime goes to the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

But cause marketing is really about incentivizing certain kinds of human behavior, and not all of it has to do with buying something. About once a quarter I see a really dynamite non-transactional cause-related marketing campaign and It’s Time to Feel Better from Cigna Corporation, the health and life insurance company, is a terrific example.

It’s Time to Feel Better is an educational website with an interactive knowledge game. You reach the game by clicking on ‘Test Your Knowledge Here.’ The game is a series of questions… more than 250 in all… that tests your knowledge of health, health insurance, disease and the like. On the left side of the screen is a water spigot.

As you answer the questions correctly, the water changes from a trickle to a steady pour. If you answer three questions right you’re informed that a child in India has received a day’s-worth of clean water at his/her school. As long as you play and answer correctly, the donations of clean water continue.

The campaign was developed by Cigna’s internal marketing, education and PR staff. “Cigna’s first goal is public awareness that the education is available, as people are drawn in through the game and its charitable giving aspect,” says Gloria Barone Rosanio, a spokesperson for Cigna . “Longer term, we will look for people to better understand health care after taking the courses, and the final longer-term goal is change -- whether people changed their behaviors as a result of the courses.

Cigna’s nonprofit partner is Water for People, a 17-year old Denver-based nonprofit that in 2007 provided safe drinking water for 108,000 people in Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, Malawi and West Bengal, India. (The photo above came from Water for People's website).

Cigna’s donation to Water for People is $50,000, enough to provide one million days of clean water.

I asked Rosanio how Cigna would evaluate the success of the campaign. She wrote, “First, we expected to drive 10,000 visits to the website where the game and courses are housed, within one month of launch. We have far surpassed that number as measured by how many days of clean water have been generated so far. We also looked to gain 10 million media and online impressions, and we have surpassed that as well with 19 million impressions.”

At first blush the evaluation metric seems a little thin, a little PR-y. Cigna’s stated goal is to change behavior, and site usage is hardly a measure of behavioral change. But to measure behavior change is a generally a large undertaking, and probably too much to ask of this campaign.

This campaign is also meant to be a learning endeavor. Cigna wants people to know what a co-pay is, what cholesterol is, how alcohol affects the teenage brain, etc. But science tells us that to really get something into your permanent store of long-term memory requires repetition just at the moment you are about to forget whatever ‘it’ is. That too, is probably too much to ask of this campaign. Since I’m piling on here a little, I should say I disliked the sound effects associated with the game. Could have been my computer speakers, certainly, but I played the game with the sound muted.

Overall, though, I really like Cigna’s approach and execution.

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