Cause Marketing Won’t Save a Bad Business

Borders appears headed for bankruptcy. Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy protection back in September 2010. Circuit City is gone. Ultimate Electronics is about to fade into the dust heap of failed electronics retailers.

And I’m having a hard time finding any current signs of life of the hot jeans brand PRVCY Premium, whose distinctive back-pocket stitching adorned the patooshkas of starlets like Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Paris Hilton, Christina Applegate, Jennifer Lopez, Miley Cyrus, and Jessica Alba. PRVCY was founded by Carolyn Jones in 2002.

Blockbuster did some great cause marketing back in the day with Children’s Miracle Network. Borders still touts its community giving programs, with a special emphasis on literacy causes. I posted in this space on one of Circuit City's cause marketing efforts. I'll bet Ultimate Electronics had active community outreach programs as well.

Here’s what PRVCY Premium’s website says about its purpose.
“The company was founded with a noble goal in mind: to share the profits with various breast cancer research foundations across the country and help in early detection and cure for the disease. Today the company continues this legacy and is expanding its support to search for cure of various types of cancers in cooperation with established charitable and other organizations.”
The three threads of the back-pocket stitching are meant to stand for ‘faith,’ ‘hope,’ and ‘love.’

Like the company says, noble. But it appears that the company has gone dark. The Facebook page and Twitter postings are old. There’s no current press clippings. The blog posts have stopped.

I hope to learn that PRVCY Premium is actually thriving. In the event it is not it underscores a sad truth: cause marketing won't save a bad business.

In the absence of good information I won’t speculate about PRVCY Premium, but Blockbuster is still producing buggy whips long after the horse has been replaced by the automobile. Circuit City and Ultimate Electronics were done in by a combination of Best Buy, the sour economy, and bad business models.

Borders doesn’t have enough stores to compete with Barnes & Noble in convenience or the negotiating muscle to compete with Amazon on price. And almost all failed businesses have some version of the same problem: they run out of cash.

None of those business challenges is mitigated by good or even great cause marketing. While cause marketing can hold a strategic place in a business; think Newman’s Own, for instance. You still have to practice smart business to be successful.

It bears repeating. Cause marketing won’t save a bad business.

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