Unconnected Cause Marketing

Two cause marketing ads in two separate publications both promote the Make-A-Wish Foundation and are both dated November 29, 2010, and yet other than the logo and the benefiting organization, they are strangely unconnected.

The Make-A-Wish ad appeared in People magazine, promoting Darren, one of their wish kids, along with the organization’s seasonal awareness and fundraising effort called Season of Wishes.

The other is from the inside back two pages of a Macy’s circular promoting the retailer’s ‘Believe’ campaign, which I greatly admire for its breadth and depth. As I’ve confessed before, I’m a sucker for these big involved campaigns because having worked on a few of them, I know what it takes to get them just right.

It’s probably too much to ask Macy’s to coordinate its circulars or other media with Make-A-Wish, but the ad for Make-A-Wish in People… whether they paid for it or not… is commercial advertising. That is, they controlled the content and its placement.

So in a magazine ad like this, why didn’t Make-A-Wish draw a strand of connection at the bottom? Something like: “Look for the Believe campaign, benefiting Make-A-Wish, online and in Macy’s stores now.”

But why would Make-A-Wish want to? After all, nobody expects Coke to use its ads to do much more than share the logo and its slogan de jour. The polar bear ads that run for Coke in the winter don’t refer to the promotions Coke does with NASCAR earlier in the year, for example.

The difference is that while Make-A-Wish is a top-10 brand among its nonprofit peers in terms of brand image, Coke consistently ranks as the number one brand in the world, undergirded by a humungous advertising and promotional budget and nearly 125-years of advertising history.

Make-A-Wish doesn’t have Coke’s advertising budget. But it does have Macy’s spending millions promoting Believe and Make-A-Wish. To my way of thinking, Make-A-Wish simply can’t afford not to reinforce a promotion like Macy’s Believe on those occasions when the nonprofit does advertise.

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