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Weaving Cause Marketing into Your Business Model

There’s probably five or so businesses that cubicle drones (and others) tend to dream of starting: a winery; a restaurant; a specialty retail store; a food business based on an old family recipe; or a toy business.

But look at something like the Inc 5000 and you’ll see tons of companies that perform some B2B function and relatively few that face the consumer, all those dreams notwithstanding.

But two brothers Chris and Will Haughey actually started a consumer-facing toy company whose success is due, in part, to the way they strategically wove cause marketing into their business model.

The company is Tegu, an eponym for Tegucigalpa, the capital city of of the Central American country Honduras where the toys are manufactured. Tegu makes wooden blocks of sustainably harvested hardwood that are stuffed with magnets. The result is a toy that’s more interesting to kids than just blocks, and the very opposite of something mind-dumbing, like Angry Birds.

Here’s the cause marketing part. When you buy a set of blocks, Tegu allows you to choose between two causes to support. You can choose:
  • To have 12 trees planted in Honduras (and elsewhere).
  • Or, help educate a caste of Honduran kids that would otherwise do scavenging work in the Tegucigalpa city dump.
The counter at Tegu.com says 18,011 trees have been planted and 1,798 days of school have been donated.

Tegu sets aren’t cheap. But they’re made of mahogany and other hardwoods. My guess is they’d last for 50 years even if they were used in a day care setting, so you're buying a legacy toy that can span the generations.

No less lasting, I think, is the way the Haughey brothers have built their cause marketing approach.

About once a month some new study or report comes out to say that cause marketing is dead. I’ll soon be reviewing in this space a recent study from the big ad agency J. Walter Thompson that says almost exactly that.

But that’s just the headline. Inevitably what the reports typically say is that the kind of brain-dead bolt-on cause marketing that we see so often is dead. Really well-thought-out and well-executed cause marketing… like this effort from Tegu… remains the wave of the future.

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