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Trade Show Cause Marketing

I spent a few hours at the Outdoor Retailers annual winter trade show on Friday, January 21, 2011 going from booth to booth and looking for notable cause marketing efforts.

Among them was a show-only effort from Columbia Sportswear, meant to promote a line of outerwear and boots called Omni-Heat Electric, along with other offerings from Columbia.

Three times a day on Thursday, Jan 20 and Friday, Jan 21, Columbia held a fashion show featuring Omni-Heat Electric and other offerings. When you Tweet out pictures from the fashion show with the hash tag orshowCA#, Columbia will make a $5 donation to the nonprofit Conservation Alliance.

The minimum donation will be $4,000 and the maximum will be $7,000.

I spoke to Jinn Brunk, a member of Columbia’s corporate responsibility team, and she said that they may follow up with all Tweeters with a message like, “we thought you’d like to know that we made a donation of (say) $6,755 to Conservation Alliance. Thanks for your help!”

The least communicated message in cause marketing is “here’s what happened,’ so that’s a smart approach. Because the promotion is Twitter-based, it’s super easy to follow up. The only challenge will be striking a balance between responsibly following-up and going too far.

Like any trade show, a good portion of what goes on at the Outdoor Retailer show is business intelligence. That is, people want to see and appraise what their competitors are doing.

Still, Columbia, which is moving up-market with products like Omni-Heat, wants to attract retailers to its booth. One thing it might consider is coming up with some way to reward the behavior of retailers who Tweet the promotion, more than they do for passers-by like me.

Imagine then some kind of mechanism such that when retailers have their Tweets about the event re-Tweeted that Columbia makes an additional $1 donation per re-Tweet, up to the proscribed maximum donation.

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