Yes, Virginia, there is Christmas Cause Marketing (and there should be more)

Dear Editor

I am more than 8 years old. Some of my peers say that there is no Christmas cause marketing. Papa says, “if you see in the cause marketing blog, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there Christmas cause marketing?

Virginia O’Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are almost right. There’s not much Christmas cause marketing going on in the States. Charities large and small have carved out the
Halloween season (October). St Jude has branded Thanksgiving (which falls on the
fourth Thursday in November in the United States). You’ll see cause marketing
promotions on virtually every American holiday: St. Patrick’s Day, Valentines
Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc.

But Christmas? Not so much.

This despite the fact that many charities do their best fundraising in the Christmas season. Annual giving is very big at Christmas time for many charities. And corporate earnings rise and fall depending on how well they do at Christmas. And yet, there’s precious little cause marketing and certainly not many ‘big’ campaigns.

That is, until now.

Macy’s and the Make-A-Wish Foundation have launched a campaign at Christmastime called Macy’s Believe. I was about to write that it’s a Christmas campaign, but strictly speaking it’s not. It’s a Santa Claus campaign. The thinking among marketers is that modern American society is at present too pluralistic to use
the ‘C’ word in broad-reaching marketing campaigns. This because for last 25 years or so Christmas celebrations in the United States have been an unsteady balance between the secular and religious.

To sidestep the Christian denotations of Christmas, Macy’s and Make-A-Wish instead revivify a hoary old story from 111 years ago involving 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, who wrote a letter questioning the veracity of Santa Claus to the editor of The New York Daily Sun, Francis B. Church.

Here’s how Macy’s Believe works: When you bring a stamped letter addressed to Santa Claus to a Macy’s store, they will donate $1 per letter to the Make-A-Wish Foundation up to a total of $1 million. Macy’s will also deliver the letters to the post office.

The website is nicely put together, if a little thin. There’s the Virginia O’Hanlon story, something about Make-A-Wish, the make yourself into Santa exercise that you see above, and a commercial featuring Macy’s ‘stars’ Jessica Simpson, Carlos Santana, Donald Trump, Martha Stewart and others.

I wish there was more about the connection between Make-A-Wish and Macy’s. Where’s the stories about Macy’s stores and employees that played some role in granting a wish to kids? Sans that Macy’s Believe is missing some heart.

I like the social media capabilities built into the “Be Clause,” activity. And I was delighted at how well designed the user interface was.

All that said, there’s still room for more and other Christmas cause marketing campaigns. Especially since Macy’s and Make-A-Wish aren’t actually attaching their campaign to Christmas.

Want to know how to do that? Take a lesson for St. Jude’s terrific Thanks and Giving campaign.

Do that and Christmas will make glad the heart of cause marketers.


The Editor

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