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Ketchum's Living in Its Own Private Idaho When it Comes to Cause Marketing

Ketchum, the big PR firm, is currently trumpeting the results of a new study that finds, as the headline for the press release puts it, that when it comes to cause marketing most consumers are “All Talk, Little Action.”

Called the ‘BlogHer 2011 Social Media Matters Study,’ it purports that, “while Americans claim they are more likely to purchase a product if the brand supports a cause, and more than 40 percent have ‘liked’ a brand or posted on Facebook for supporting a cause, barely one in five actually put their money where their good intentions are by switching brands, paying more or purchasing more.”

Let’s unpack that sentence a little. The suggestion is that if you have liked a cause on Facebook... the online equivalent of drinking a Diet Coke so as to mitigate the effect of the slice of cheesecake you had with dinner...you are still nonetheless unlikely to have actually made some kind of a real commitment to a cause. Go figure.

Quick raise of hands here from all the nonprofits. All of you who have made $500 or more from Facebook Causes, please email me at aldenkeene at gmail dot com. While we’re at it, all you for-profits, I want to hear from you if you’ve made $5,000 or more through Facebook.

In my conversations with nonprofits I’ve never found any that were actually making money through Facebook Causes. The numbers bear this out.

Facebook Causes claims just less than 9 million active monthly users and an installed base of 100 million users, 350,000 causes supported, and $30 million raised since its foundation in 2007, according to Wikipedia.

Divide $30 million by 4 years and you get $7.5 million a year. Not bad. However, divide $30 million by an installed base of 100 million and you get $0.30 per user. Divide it by 350,000 causes and you get $85.71 per cause, on average.

Like I said, email me if your cause has taken in more than $500 through Facebook Causes

Now I’m not suggesting that causes should eschew Facebook or Facebook Causes. On the contrary. But right now Facebook isn’t really how people donate to causes any more than liking a cause is how people truly engage with a cause.

Indeed, the only people that have ever made money from Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg, his venture capital equity partners, and Goldman Sachs.

So for Ketchum to somehow draw a line of connection between liking a cause on Facebook and one’s propensity to actively participate in cause marketing strains credulity.

Ketchum’s release goes on to say, “this research is significant because it contrasts what consumers actually do versus what they say they would do in reaction to a hypothetical cause marketing situation, said Kelley Skoloda, partner and director of Ketchum’s Global Brand Marketing Practice. In many instances, it appears cause programs have a far greater effect on brand affinity, reputation and share of voice than on sales. But the research also revealed the keys to turn talk into action.”

That’s a rather ironic statement given the fact that the way Ketchum gauged that people were saying one thing and doing another when it comes to cause marketing was by asking them. Ketchum would have us believe that people lie when they answer questions about cause marketing, except when they answer Ketchum's questions about cause marketing.

Given that incongruous fact I wonder why Ketchum’s numbers are more to be believed than the many studies that have come to largely the opposite conclusions.

(BTW, the photo at the left is of beautiful Ketchum, Idaho).

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