Book Review of "Cause Marketing for Dummies" by Waters and MacDonald

In the December 1991 issue of Life magazine insurer Fireman’s Fund ran the image ad at the left that describes the insurer’s role in the restoration of Ellis Island. Read the body copy and conspicuous by its absence is any mention of Fireman’s Fund actually supporting the restoration financially.

That was 20 years ago… just eight years after American Express’s seminal cause marketing effort on behalf of the restoration of the neighboring Statue of Liberty… and a lot has changed. Life magazine still ran ads for cigarettes, for instance. Moreover, I submit to you that if Ellis Island were being restored in 2011 Fireman’s Fund would almost certainly make a financial donation to the effort that would be mentioned in the ad.

Joe Waters and Joanna MacDonald both started their careers in cause marketing in the early 1990s, (as did I). And in the process they and other pioneers of cause marketing have changed the way companies think about and communicate the ways that they benefit society, and that’s all for the good in my book.

Now these two veterans have penned their own book called Cause Marketing for Dummies that is a welcome addition to the cause marketing literature.

I’ll bet I’ve read 90% of the books written about cause marketing. The earliest ones were often stuffy or unreadable. A few were both. The first authors on the topic of cause marketing often tried too hard to persuade that the practice was both effective and acceptable to reasonable people.

By contrast, Cause Marketing for Dummies approaches the topic with the assumption that the case for cause marketing has mainly been made. That assumption allows Joe and Joanna to get refreshingly tactical in their book. Cause Marketing for Dummies is especially strong on the topics of paper icon campaigns (they refer to them as ‘pinups’) and on transactional cause marketing efforts.

Joe is also a social media geek of some standing and the book also shines on the burgeoning practice of location-based cause marketing and how cause marketers can use the breadth and depth of social media. Likewise the book benefits from Joe’s wonderful sense of humor. (Full disclosure: Joe and I are friends and he mentions as a resource in the book.)

Joe and Joanna should also be praised for their emphasis on the importance of selling in cause marketing. “Nothing happens until something gets sold,” the old saying goes, and Joe and Joanna tackle that topic head-on and apology-free with good suggestions and solid advice.

Cause Marketing for Dummies is not the perfect cause marketing book. It doesn’t substantively address the vital topic of cause marketing campaign activation, for instance.

But Cause Marketing for Dummies is eminently readable and chock-full of good counsel. My copy has a number of highlighted sections.

I heartily recommend Cause Marketing for Dummies to any of my readers. Especially anyone who doesn’t have the benefit of Joe and Joanna’s more than 35 years of collective experience in on-the-ground cause marketing.

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