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Strategic Cause Marketing, Post No. 434

Strategic cause marketing like strategic philanthropy is one of those things to strive for. And as a blogger it's a topic that is all but evergreen.

Strategic cause marketing means there’s a logical connection between the cause and the company. So, a logical charity for a hair salon to support is Locks of Love, which makes wigs for people who have lost their hair due to a medical condition. A logical charity for children’s book publisher is a children’s literacy cause. A restaurant chain might choose a hunger charity, etc.

But certainly not all cause marketing is strategic. Nor should it be. Imagine how limited a cause with great affinity like UNICEF would be if they limited their sights to only those companies that sell to children in the developing world.

In the last few days I’ve come across two splendid examples of strategic cause marketing and strategic philanthropy.

The first is from a pair of cheeky product designers who run an online retail outlet called ‘the.’ The second from E.B. White’s classic kiddie lit The Trumpet of the Swan.

Among other things, ‘the’ sells plastic lunch bags printed to look like green mold is growing on whatever’s inside, thereby foiling would-be office sandwich thieves and lunchtime bullies at school. When you buy “Anti-Theft Lunch Bags  ‘the’ will donate 5% of the purchase price to Freedom from Hunger, a 60-year old microfinance charity with operations in 16 countries in the developing world.

It’s perfectly strategic cause marketing. Sandwich bags paired with a hunger charity in the sassiest strategic cause marketing I can recall from a company whose name is a definite article. Bravo, the.

My second example requires a little bit of setup and (spoiler alert) I’m going to reveal the plotline of E.B. White’s wonderful book, The Trumpet of the Swan.

The book concerns a trumpeter swan named Louis who is born unable to make a sound. In a desperate attempt to give his son a voice, Louis’ father crashes into a music store in Billings, Montana and steals a trumpet. Louis, a bright cygnet if ever there was one, learns the trumpet, as well as how to read and write.

His adventures as a trumpet playing swan culminate in Philadelphia where he earns $500 a week playing in a seedy jazz club. He returns home to Montana with a wad of cash, which he gives to his father so he can reclaim his dignity by repaying his debt to the music store.

The father returns to the store with the money and a note from Louis. As he descends from the sky, the music store owner… worried he’s going to be robbed again… fires his shotgun. Louis’ father is grazed, but not hurt by a single shotgun pellet, and manages to land. All of which creates quite a stir on the streets of Billings and attracts a crowd that includes a game warden, a policeman, a judge and other men, women and children.

Because the money Louis made performing is many times more than the cost for the trumpet and the store’s repair, the storekeeper is left with a dilemma. What should he do with the extra money that literally fell from the sky?

The storekeeper says:

“I have an announcement… I am only going to keep just enough money to pay for the stolen trumpet and the repair bills for my store. All the rest of the money will be given to a good cause if I can think of just the right one. Can anyone think of a worthy cause that needs money?”

The Salvation Army,” suggested woman.

“No.” said the storekeeper.

“The Boy Scouts?” suggested a boy

“No,” said the storekeeper.

“The American Civil Liberties Union?” suggested a man.

“Nope,” said the storekeeper. Nobody has thought of just the right place for me to send this money.”

“How about the Audubon Society?” asked a little fellow whose nose looked like the beak of a bird.

“Great! You’ve got it!” cried the storekeeper. “A bird has been very good to me, and now I want to do something for birds. The Audubon Society is kind to birds. I want this money to be used to help birds. Some birds are in real trouble. They face extinction.”

That, my friends, is strategic philanthropy. 


James Sutandyo said…
I don't quite understand what you are saying in the end. I know it's different in that the swan has nothing to do with the store owners direct business, but then what do you call it? Swan Cause Marketing?
Hi James:

Sorry for the confusion.

In this post I was talking about both strategic cause marketing and strategic philanthropy.

In Trumpet of the Swan the storekeeper practiced strategic philanthropy (giving) in a one time action that was appropriate to the moment (ie. a crowd scene where both the cop and the game warden were trying to get hold of some of the money). The Judge in the crowd had summarily awarded all the money to the storekeeper. And wanting to keep the goodwill of the crowd, the storekeeper determined to give away the extra money to a cause that made sense at that moment.

Given that context, the Audubon Society made perfect strategic sense.

I should have included all that in the post.

Thanks for the comment.

Warm regards,
Paul Jones

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