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The Importance of Affinity in Cause Marketing

Implicit in any successful cause marketing campaign is the idea of affinity. Absent affinity, no cause marketing campaign is likely to soar

Think about it, if children with cancer don’t affect you emotionally, intellectually or otherwise, then you’re not likely to support any cause marketing campaign on behalf of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

And it has to be the right kind of affinity. I may love American Idol and Randy Jackson, seen in the FSI (Free-Standing Insert) on the left. But if I don’t have a cat then his endorsement of 9Lives isn’t likely to convince me to buy a bag of dry cat food.

So consider the case of this mailer from the Alden Keene Cause Marketing Database that mailed circa October 2004 from the cooperative marketing group for the Toyota Service Centers in my market. I get mailers like these about once a month. This one promoted a lube, oil and filter service featuring genuine Toyota parts.

In the red burst on the left side is the cause marketing offer. Buy this service for $25.95, and the Toyota Service Center will make a $2 donation to Weber State University automotive training programs, which the mailer points out, were negatively affected by State budget cuts.

The text of the burst makes it clear that the local Toyota Service Centers have some skin in the game.
“Weber State University trains our technicians to stay current with the ever more complex systems in your state of the art Toyota vehicles.”
But beyond owning Toyotas, I don’t have any skin in this game. While I admire Weber State University, I’m not an alumnus, nor is any immediate family member. Weber State’s campus is about 50 miles away, so I don’t have any particular affinity based on proximity. Moreover, the training of automotive technicians, while important, strikes me as exactly the kind of program that ought to be heavily funded by Toyota, its dealers, and service centers anyway.

In other words, I don’t have any affinity with the school or its automotive training programs. Ergo, the $2 donation represents no special incentive for me.

Who might have special affinity? That’s a tough one. Certainly graduates of Weber State’s automotive training programs, but almost by definition those people all change their own oil. What about other Weber State students, graduates, vendors, donors, faculty or staff?

They certainly have affinity for the school, but does that extend to any special affinity to an automotive training program? Difficult to say without surveying those groups.

In short, the Toyota Service Centers in my local market used a cause marketing ploy on a lot of people (myself included) that don’t have any natural affinity for the ‘cause.’

I don’t know what the results of the campaign were, but I do know that in the years since I received this I haven’t seen any other offer like this from my local Toyota Service Centers.

I’ll bet the campaign didn’t pay off.


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