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Cause Marketing Your Valentine

On Monday, Feb 2 Lisa Scherzer, a reporter from contacted me with the following email: 

Hi Paul,

I’m a writer at I’m working on an article about alternative Valentine’s Day gifts that are for a good cause. I’ve come across a bunch of nonprofits and other companies that have Valentine’s promotions that include, for example, giving proceeds from the purchase of an organic flower bouquet to charity.

Would you be able to speak with me about this kind of cause marketing – in particular for Valentine’s Day? And how should consumers approach these kinds of items when shopping for gifts for their beloveds? I came across your Alden Keene blog and I thought you might be able to help.

Best regards,


I responded thusly:

Hi Lisa:

Great to hear from. Thanks for contacting me. Please let me know if this does not suit your needs, or if you’d like something else or something more.

“Retailers big and small, online and offline rely on shopping seasons. You know, Valentine’s, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day/Graduation, Back to School, Halloween, and Christmas. Since Valentine’s Day comes in the first quarter, traditionally the worst quarter for retail, it’s an important sales season. And for many chocolate, candy makers or florists, it’s almost make or break.

Valentine’s Day is a natural for cause marketing promotions. Research and experience show that cause marketing works best with consumer products. And when there’s a good match between the cause and sponsor, cause marketing can be very effective at bottom-line things like improving sales or customer loyalty. For retailers, especially in this lousy economy, cause marketing is a little like you or me taking a vitamin C tablet during cold and flu season.  

Plus cause marketing also helps charities at a time when they’re especially hard hit. In that way cause marketing is like dark chocolate for retailers; it tastes good and its loaded with anti-oxidants, to boot. 

But what’s a consumer supposed to do when the online florist or the storefront chocolatier is offering a donation to a cause?

If it’s a donation of $5 or more give it a quick smell test:

* Have you heard of the cause? Is it respectable? Can the clerk or the website tell you anything about the charity?

* Is there any supporting material? A brochure? PDF? A link? A phone number? If your’re really serious or just curious you can always check on charities at websites like or

* Does the charity’s (apparent) mission resonate with you or with others you care about?

If any part of it smells funny or doesn’t appeal, walk away from the transaction. There’s plenty of businesses happy to take your money right now.

If the donation in question is a small amount, say a $1 or less, and the product is otherwise something you’d be likely to buy, my take is that you probably don’t have to spend any time or mental energy on it. Spend your time thinking about your Valentine, not the dime that may or may not be going to charity.”   

Warm regards,

Paul Jones

Sad to say, when the story appeared, Ms. Scherzer chose not to quote me. But all is not lost. 

At least I got a post out of the experience!


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