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Lack of Integration Hurts Lilly Pulitzer Cause Marketing Jubilee

In celebration of her fiftieth year in business, fashion designer Lilly Pulitzer... in conjunction with eight celebrity moms... is conducting a cause marketing campaign benefiting the Epidermolysis Bullosa Medical Research Foundation. EB is a rare and especially heartbreaking genetic skin disorder.

The celebrity moms include Gwyneth Paltrow, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, Angie Harmon, Debra Messing, Marcia Cross, Bridget Moynahan, Catherine Bell, and Brooke Shields.

When you buy outfits from Pulitzer’s ‘Colorful Cause Jubilee Collection for Summer 2009’ proceeds benefit the EBMRF.

The mom and me swimsuit collection illustrated to the left is from the Gwyneth Paltrow collection.

I have my usual qualms about the ‘proceeds’ language. But more than that I think Lilly Pulitzer missed some tricks here, almost all related to a lack of integration.

The pronouncement was made in mid-April, yet the Pulitzer blog has only two posts, including the announcement itself. There’s a few more in Facebook and a smattering in Twitter. On the Lilly Pulitzer website the promotion itself is obscured by the title in the menu board “Jubilee.” If you weren't looking for the word 'Jubilee,' you'd never know to associate it with the cause marketing promotion.

If you come to any of the pages for the celebrity designs any way except through the Jubilee area of the website, you’d be hard pressed to conclude that there was a cause marketing promotion in place.

Lilly Pulitzer’s colorful clothing has a fan base. But for customers in nearly 2/5ths of the States in the U.S., the only place to buy the clothing is online. So if individual product pages that are part of the promotion don’t draw the connection between the product and the cause, there’s a meaningful number of customers who are unlikely to learn about it on the Lilly Pulitzer website itself!

Nowadays you just can't presume that visitors to your website navigate their way to individual pages of your site starting at your home page and proceeding in a linear fashion. Every page of a website must ... to some degree... stand on its own.

Moreover in a case where the company has picked a charity that isn’t well known, like EBMRF, it’s crucial that there be a note or two of explanation about the why of that support. If it’s personal, say Lilly Pulitzer herself has a grandchild or one of the employees at Lilly Pulitzer has a nephew or niece with the condition it would help the promotion if customers knew that. And, rest assured, that could be communicated without exploiting any kids.

Even if it’s not personal, customers need to know the why of it to make sense of it in their own minds. It's not enough to say it's a 'good cause.' I, personally, know of hundreds of good causes. Perhaps the cause was persoanlly affecting to Lilly Pultizer herself. Maybe the cause itself is wonderfully efficient. Or their research approach is especially innovative. Customers want to know the why of a company's support for a charity that is featured in this way.

Two parting thoughts: A limited number of the celebrity designed outfits are available. More could be made of that scarcity in the promotion. Lilly Pultizer might have considered making at least one item of each celebrity’s line super exclusive and sold it at a premium price with correspondingly higher percentage of the proceeds going to EBMRF.

It might even be fun to encourage a sense of 'competition' between the celebrity moms over whose line sells the best. Imagine Brooke leading but then falling behind Angie Harmon's line. She might tell her agent to book her on Ellen or Tyra to make up the lost ground.

Finally, I know it’s part of Lilly Pulitzer's branding, but the pastel-colored type on the website combined with mice-type sized font, made some pages hell for me to read.

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