Skip to main content

The Ten Worst Cause Marketing Campaigns of 2010

My post from yesterday, April 4, 2011 chronicled my top 10 list of the best cause marketing of 2010.

Today’s post is my list of the 10 worst cause marketing campaigns of 2010 that I posted on during the year.

Cause marketing campaigns land on the worst list because they lack transparency, they use bad judgment, are dishonest, overly-complicated, obtuse, or there’s just something weaselly about them. Just as my favorite campaign in yesterday's post was at the bottom, my my least favorite effort is at the bottom of this page.

1) I certainly thought there was something weaselly about a 2009 campaign from Clorox, which originally dropped in Parenting magazine in December 2009. The ad was ostensibly about saving trees. The art in the ad depicted a Christmas tree. But Clorox wasn’t saving Christmas trees. It mentioned tree-planting and a charity called the California Oak Foundation. But California Oak Foundation wasn’t a tree-planting group. Instead, I wrote, “This ad is all legerdemain” that is, sleight-of-hand.

2) The brand Scotties Tissues also put out ads with an environmental flavor, too. They told us that Irving Tissue, which owns Scotties, plants three trees for every one its cuts down to make Scotties. That’s a little like Nucor Steel claiming special notice for recycling steel. As for Irving planting three trees for every one it cuts down, that’s just prudent forestry management. They have to make up for the trees that will be killed by bugs, animals, and weather. I wrote, “so while this effort from Scotties seems like cause marketing or corporate social responsibility, all it really is just business…I'm calling Scotties out because this has the gloss of corporate social responsibility and cause marketing…when it's really nothing of the kind.”

3) Many cause marketers hated the KFC-Komen hook up a year ago. I did too, but for different reasons than most. I wasn’t terribly bothered by the ‘cause-nitive dissonance’ of fried food… obesity is a cancer risk… supporting Komen. After the firestorm against the campaign started among the chatttering classes Komen and KFC mounted a brave response. But here's what they couldn't say, but that I can; how is Komen supposed to reach the obese if it can’t go where they are? What I hated about the campaign was the way KFC and Komen tried to introduce a sense of competition into it. Why was anyone expected to care that KFC wanted to generate the ‘largest single donation to end breast cancer forever?’

4) I saw a lot of what I eventually termed ‘faux cause marketing’ in 2010, including an effort from Bayer, which looked like cause marketing but wasn’t. The emphasis here is on the past tense of look. The visual the art director choose looked like something for a clean water campaign in the developing world. Instead it had more in common with the kinds of ads you see in the programs for fancy charity galas. It was simply an ad congratulating Pittsburgh, Bayer’s North American headquarters, for cleaning up the Three Rivers.

5) Two other faux cause marketing ads caught my eye, too. One was from Eukanuba, which makes pet foods, the other from Novartis’s over the counter brands like Prevacid and Keri lotion. The Eukanuba ad, which I saw in a lot of publications, had a handsome K-9 officer in uniform and his canine charge. It looked very much like cause marketing, but wasn’t. Novartis’s effort was in a Free-Standing Insert (FSI) and was branded ‘Novartis Cares.’ I wrote, “now, I have no problem with commerce. Someone has to get this economy going again and I’m fine if it’s people with dry skin or gas (who stimulate the economy). For that matter, 400 posts in this blog ought to affirm that I’m OK with most cause marketing, too. But when something walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, I’m disappointed when I find a dog in its place!”

6) One of the busiest cause marketing ads came from the local Window World franchisees. It featured a picture of the owners, Doug and Kathy Llewellyn, and endorsement from and picture of radio star Dave Ramsey, the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, an Energy Star logo, four URLs, two phone numbers, and not one or even two charity logos, but three! This is ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ cause marketing at its worst.

7) I almost snorted when I saw a Free-Standing Insert (FSI) during National Breast Cancer Awareness from Purina, another pet food company, on behalf of Komen. Not even six months before Purina had run a themed FSI for National Pet Month. I concluded that, “it looks like Purina is hooking its cause marketing dollars to promotional months. So if you represent National Periodontal Disease Month or Fighting Innumeracy in the Workplace Month, by all means contact Purina. It seems like they’re open to a lot of outside-of-the-bag... er... can. I mean, Purina appears to be open to outside-the-box sponsorships.”

8) I wanted to like Southwest Airline’s effort for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but the campaign, which made use of Facebook Places was so complicated that it was probably self-defeating. It was easy enough to explain. Passengers were asked to check in using their web-enabled device via Facebook Places during the month-long promotion. When they did, Southwest would donate $1 to Make-A-Wish up to $300,000. The challenge was that the explanation of how to use Facebook Places took three screens. That’s Facebook’s fault, not Southwest’s. Still, Southwest choose to use Facebook’s kluge-like system.

9) Dannon’s lid campaign for the National Breast Cancer Foundation looked so much like Yoplait’s effort of longstanding for Komen that I compared it to stealing source code. I wrote, “it seems like a defensive measure on Dannon’s part. In one fell swoop, Dannon made Yoplait’s cause marketing effort slightly generic. Of course, that’s a two-edged sword because it made Dannon’s yogurt cause marketing slightly generic, too… I think the cause marketing world would be richer if Dannon had chosen to be inspired by Yoplait’s label campaign, rather than to try and copy and paste it.”

10) I found a breathless advertorial spread in Elle magazine (see above) for the Hollywood-financed charity called the Creative Coalition worthy of ridicule. The Creative Coalition maintained a party suite for stars during the 2010 Academy Awards where they could come get a drink or a massage and then talk to the media about public affairs topics of the day. I wrote, “‘Coalition members …believe that the active involvement in our political system of this highly visible industry is important not just to those who participate, but to the nation as a whole.’ You’ll get no argument from me that entertainers and creatives have a role to play in modern American Democracy. But so do the people who run those noisy street sweepers in mall parking lots at 6 am in the morning. You just don’t see them talking about their political and governmental policy views while getting a couples massage with one of the Kardashian sisters.”

Comments

Montele Hogan said…
Love your lists! I really like thi no. 4 , 7, 9 input. : )
Paul Jones said…
Thanks, Montele.

Sometimes when I write the stuff that's in 4,7,9 I worry that I've gone too far or gotten too snarky.

So I'm glad for your kind words.

Warm regards,
Paul

Popular posts from this blog

The Alden Keene Cause Marketing Stock Index Dramatically Outperforms Other Indices

There are stock indexes galore; the Dow, S&P 500, the NASDAQ Composite, the Wilshire 5000, the FTSE, and hundreds more. But how would an index of the stocks of companies that do a meaningful amount of cause marketing perform compared to those well-known indexes? Pretty well, as it turns out.

I first floated the idea of a stock index that would track companies that do cause marketing back in 2009. I tried to figure out Yahoo Pipes so that I could put the feed right into this blog. But alas sometimes the geek gene does fall pretty far from the tree.

So I talked to programmers to see if I could find someone who could do the same, but it was always more than I was willing to pay.

Finally, last week I hired a MBA student to do it all in a spreadsheet, and what do you know but that over the last 15 years a basket of 25 cause marketing stocks dramatically outperforms the Dow, the S&P 500, the NASDAQ Composite, and the Wilshire 5000.

The index, which I call the Alden Keene Cause Market…

Pimping for Constant Contact

OK, not pimping really. More like a gentle noodge to nonprofits and the companies that love them that it’s time to start email marketing.

I was invited to a local presentation on email marketing from Constant Contact, the Waltham, Massachusetts email marketing outfit whose target market is small businesses and nonprofits.

They offer a cause-related marketing campaign called Care4Kids meant to benefit children’s causes. Constant Contact customers are invited to nominate worthy 501(c)(3) children’s charities to receive a free account along with the training to create an effective email campaign.

Non children’s charities are probably still eligible for charity discounts. If you’re outside the United States you might be able to induce Constant Contact to consider your cause. Alternately, you could suggest a similar program to email marketing vendors in your home country.

It goes without saying… I hope… that every nonprofit needs an email marketing component. Email marketing is a good deal lik…

An Interview with Cause-Related Marketing Pioneer Jerry Welsh

Jerry Welsh is the closest thing cause marketing has to a father.
In 1983 after a number of regional cause-related marketing efforts, Welsh, who was then executive vice president of worldwide marketing and communications at American Express looked out his window in lower Manhattan at the Statue of Liberty. The Statue was then undergoing a major refurnishing, and in a flash Welsh determined to undertake the first modern national cause marketing campaign.
I say modern because almost 100 years before in January 1885, the Statue of Liberty was sitting around in crates in New York warehouses because the organization building the pedestal ran out of money. And so Joseph Pulitzer, the publisher of the newspaper called The World, proposed a very grassroots solution reminiscent in its own way to Welsh’s cause-related marketing.
Pulitzer ran an editorial promising he would print the name of everyone who donated even a penny. Sure enough pennies, along with dimes and nickels, quarters and dollars, …