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Showing posts from October, 2011

Making Cause Marketing More Systemic

Coca-Cola has been drawing neutral to positive reviews for its white can promotion benefiting the World Wildlife Fund. Mark me down as neutral to negative, because I don’t think it goes quite fair enough.

Here’s why: Amory Lovins, the slightly heterodox environmental scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute has a new book out called “Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era,” wherein he finds that we don’t often enough take a systemic approach to energy and resource conservation. The result is missed opportunity.

I think the same is true in cause marketing.

Here’s the outlines of the promotion as constituted: Starting tomorrow, Nov 1, 2011 through February 2012, Coke will release its flagship product in white cans in order to draw awareness of the plight of the Arctic and the shrinking habitat of the polar bear in particular. Coke has used polar bears in its advertising since 1922.

Coke will donate $1 million to the WWF and asks that Coke drinkers also donate to t…

The World Series of Cause Marketing

The winner of the 2011 World Series will be determined tonight at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. But four causes, recognized during the first four games of the Series, have already won the big spotlight that the Fall Classic brings. Those causes are: Welcome Back Veterans; the Roberto Clemente Award; Boys and Girls Clubs of America; and Stand Up to Cancer.

Each was separately highlighted during the 2011 Series.

This is no small thing. Game 2, for instance, had 14.69 million viewers. Not quite ‘Dancing With the Stars’ numbers, but respectable given the two teams playing for the Championship this year.

The cause featured in Game 2 was the awarding of the 2011 Roberto Clemente Legacy award to David Ortiz, the designated hitter of the Boston Red Sox. The Roberto Clemente Award recognizes the MLB player who “best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field.”

That’s video of Ortiz being recognized before the start of the game at the left. There was a little …

Long-Term, Committed Monogamy in Cause Marketing

Some sponsors do so much volume and have such great visibility and recognition that they almost have the pick of charities to partner with. So, like actor George Clooney, some sponsors have been seen with a lot of different pretty faces over the years.

Toys R Us has had cause marketing relationships with at least 4 charities in the last 20 years and is currently with Toys for Tots.

In the last year Purina, the pet foods brand, has done cause marketing campaigns with, as seen at the left, and with Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

But there is value to strict monogamy in cause marketing relationships. After all, which is cuter, George Clooney canoodling with girlfriend #32 or a couple that’s been married 65 years that still holds hands and snuggles?

With that in mind, here’s my short list of the positives of long-term monogamous cause marketing relationships.

Customers begin to think of you and your charity partner as an inseparable pair. And that’s good for both your brands. To …

Nature Valley Puts You In the National Parks

The thing you never understand about the Grand Canyon, until you actually go there, is that no photo does it justice. It’s so deep and so wide that the limited field of view provided by still or video cameras comes up seriously wanting. And no photo, by itself, is immersive enough either.

Now Nature Valley granola bars, a General Mills brand, is trying to do justice to the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Great Smokey National Parks by letting you experience them as a virtual hiker.

Nature Valley and its agency McCann Erickson sent camera crews to capture 100 or so trail miles in each park using much the same technology that Google does for its famed street views on Google Maps, only all the equipment was mounted on people, not vehicles.

In February 2012 Nature Valley will unveil the first stage online. And you and I can follow along at a real-time walking pace. Writes Joe Berkowitz on, “the resulting concept…is a model for how marketers can make a useful contribution to a …

Trick or Treat for UNICEF Embraces New Giving Tech

For three generations… since 1950… the United States Fund for UNICEF has sponsored Trick or Treat for UNICEF a door-to-door fundraiser conducted by children and meant to take place on or around Halloween, October 31.

In 60 years Trick or Treat for UNICEF has raised $164 million, an average of $2.7 million a year. Not bad!

But the problem, if you can call it that, is that the campaign has traditionally generated the donations in cash, with all the attendant challenges that entails.

Moreover, the people who donated last year are likely to be unknown to the United States Fund for UNICEF and almost certainly forgotten by the kids, meaning there’s little continuity from year to year.

Surely there’s a role here for technology.

And indeed the United States Fund for UNICEF has embraced a slick new way for kids to Trick or Treat for UNICEF.

Today kids can Trick or Treat for UNICEF, raise good sum of money and never touch a single nickel of it.

This Halloween the kids can print out a canister wrapper …

Subscribing to the Cause Marketing Blog is as Easy as Harry Potter's Accio Spell

Kind Readers:

Gwen D. from the Northumberland region of the U.K. (home to Hogwarts!) is the latest to join the Cause Marketing Google Newsgroup.

It’s super-easy to subscribe. Simply send me your name and your email address to aldenkeene at gmail dot com.

Like the Accio spell on Harry Potter which brings desirable objects to you, when you subscribe each new post comes directly to your email, usually every business day. It's like Muggle magic!

And like Gwen, when you subscribe I’ll also send you a PDF copy of the "Five Flavors of Cause Marketing" which explains Cause Marketing in an easy-to-follow matrix that includes examples.

It's a great brainstorming tool and helps ensure that your campaign has all the components appropriate for that flavor of Cause Marketing.

Rest assured that I will never sell your name or email address.

So join today.

Warm regards,

Aldenkeene at gmail dot com

Happy Birthday to the Cause Marketing Blog!

Five years ago on Tuesday October 17 I posted for the first time on this blog. On Tuesday November 1, 2011 I’ll celebrate my 700th post.

Since October 2010 I’ve posted, almost without exception, every business day. I compare it to writing a daily newspaper column, with all the attendant challenges of coming up with something new… or at least different… to say five days a week.

Like Ernest Hemingway famously said:
"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." I don’t bleed with the same brio that Hemingway did. So my thanks to you my faithful readers for your patience when I’ve been a poor stylist, a bad grammarian, and the many times when I stopped before I had finished.

In remembrance of posts past here’s my very first one, which still has punch and force these 1800 or so days later, (even if I do say so myself).
Eyeballs vs. Tears

Barely a day goes by that I don't see some kind of cause-related marketing, some good and some not so good.


Payless Gives Shoes 4 Kids; the Basic Black Pump of Cause Marketing

This holiday season Payless ShoeSource will donate $1.2 million worth of shoes free of charge to children in North America, and 11 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Now in its fourth year the program… called Payless Gives Shoes 4 Kids… is accepting applications from nonprofits right now at

Having just finished Ross Shafer’s slender volume called ‘Grab More Market Share: How to Wrangle Business Away from Lazy Competitors,’ I wonder if Payless hasn’t come a little late to the party with this helpful if pedestrian program.

Shafer’s premise is that in tough economic times it may be easier and cheaper to out-compete rivals than to win over entirely new costumers by simply doing the things competitors are unwilling to do.

There’s a certain logic to Shafer’s thinking. Now-defunct electronics chain Circuit City spent many years and millions of dollars winning customers. And even if the stores weren’t the same as Best Buy it’s a simple transition for former Circuit Ci…

Cause for Dessert

If you’re a restaurant, even in a quick-service category, it’s hard to imagine a transactional cause marketing campaign you could launch more easily or quickly than a dessert promotion. When a customer buys a slice of cake, pie, a dish of ice cream, or some other dessert you make a donation to your cause partner.

In most cases you wouldn’t want to promote a salad or a main course. At a sit-down restaurant most customers come into your establishment to order an entrée and in many cases you probably give them a salad with the meal. So you don’t need to promote entrees.

But with an appetizer, drink or dessert promotion you could quite possibly raise the average ticket price by several dollars.

Drinks have very high margins, of course, and consequently they have often been featured in cause marketing promotions. But most of the cause marketing around mixed drinks that I’ve seen involve a custom flavor that somehow befits the cause.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. It just requires …

Corporate Citizenship In a Time of Occupy Wall Street

Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship released its annual CSR Index the other day even as Occupy Wall Street and its satellite efforts continue their protests that are, in part, anti-corporate.

The top 10 were:

Publix Super Markets
Berkshire Hathaway
Campbell Soup
Baxter International

By my count I’ve seen cause marketing from six of the top 10 and 33 of the full list of 50 companies.

According to the BCCCC the index is based on a survey of “how the public perceives a company in three dimensions:”
"Citizenship: Does the company contribute positively to its surrounding community in a socially and environmentally responsible fashion?

"Governance: Is the company business run in a fair and transparent fashion? Do stakeholders associate the company with high ethical business standards?

"Workplace: Are employees treated fairly and paid a decent wage? Does the company invest in developing employee skill sets and career opportunities?" No…

Parting the Kimono (a little) on Cause Marketing ROI

I’m working a speech I’ll give next week on cause marketing and the meeting planners asked if I could share some actual ROI data.

Such data isn’t impossible to discover. But it’s not at all common.

You don’t have too think to hard about it to know why this is so. If a transactional cause marketing was based on sales, then it would be a matter of simple arithmetic for a competitor to figure out unit sales during the time period of the cause marketing promotion, something most companies would be reluctant to reveal.

For different reasons we don’t always know what charities net out of their cause marketing efforts, even though their 990 tax return tell us how much money individual U.S. charities take in overall.

But in just the last week, I’ve seen two prominent cause marketers who have parted the kimono… but only a little… on actual results.

In a news item published October 14, 2011 the executive director of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure chapter in central Oklahoma, Lorna Palmer… revealed …

I Don’t Hate All the Cause Marketing I See. Honest.

I looked back at my posts over the last few weeks and found little enthusiasm and a lot of criticism of the cause marketing efforts I’ve seen lately.

I’m beginning to wonder if I’m like the drunk test performed on Steve Martin in the 1983 movie “The Man with Two Brains.” Martin’s character, who is in Germany, gets pulled over by the polizei and given a sobriety test that requires him to stretch out his arms and touch his nose, walk a straight line and then return doing a two-handed and one-handed handstand, perform cartwheels and backflips, and then juggle and tap dance while singing a German song.

Martin pauses before undertaking that last part and says to the police officer, “…damn your drunk tests are hard.”

Watch the clip here.

What can I say? Everyone thinks that cause marketing is easy. And it is. If you’re the type who can juggle, tap dance, and sing at the same time.

So gird up. Because I’m going to be hard on another cause marketing sponsor.

The weekly sales flyer for Fresh Markets…

Should Breast Cancer Awareness Be About the Breast More Than the Disease?

Should breast cancer awareness ever be more about the breast than it is the cancer?

I wonder when I see ads like the one at the left by Estee Lauder.

Over the last few years there’s been a general sexualizing of the disease that troubles me.

Don’t get me wrong. Part of the early genius of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and her sister breast cancer charities was the recognition that breast cancer was different for women than, say, lung cancer, even if a cancer in the breast might be only a few centimeters away from a cancer in the lung.

One reason why Komen et al acquired so much momentum is because there’s a personalness to breast cancer that also touches things like feminine sexuality. Survivors fight more than just the disease. Even as a clueless man I get that.

Breast cancer affects a women’s sense of self in ways that other diseases, say, heart disease—which kills twice as many women in the United States as breast cancer—do not.

But I don’t think the cause is well-served by ads like this, …

Respecting Your Cause Marketing Partner

From Freschetta, the bake-at-home pizza brand found in your grocer’s freezer case, comes a pink ribbon cause marketing campaign that seems slightly ashamed of its esteemed non-profit partner.

Here’s the campaign: when you buy pink-beribboned packages of Freschetta pizza products and Schwan Food Company, the brand's owner, will donate $1 up to $50,000 total to guess who?

You almost have to guess because the type is so small in this FSI (Free-Standing Insert) you might not be able to read it without the help of artificial magnification. It's only slightly better on Freschetta's website, which requires an extra click behind the mention of the campaign on the home page to find out who it benefits.

In fact, with the aid of magnification and good strong light, I can report that the ad says the donation is headed towards Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, one of the most respected hospitals and cancer research facilities in the world.

Maybe Schwan is concerned that M…

What Comes After ‘Pink Pledges’ in Cause Marketing?

More pink ribbon cause marketing, this time from retailer Dress Barn.

For every 'Lilac' plush toy animal sold for $6 through Dec. 31, 2011, Dress Barn will send “the entire net profit of at least $2.50 to support local and national breast cancer initiatives” at the American Cancer Society.”

Lilac was featured on the inside front cover flap of the “Late Fall 2011” Dress Barn catalog.

I much admire the clear language in this appeal. The American Cancer Society will receive the entire profit from the sale each plush toy and naming a specific dollar figure. Would that more sponsors were as transparent.

The bottom portion of the flap encourages people to ‘Take the Pink Pledge.’ Point your smart phone at the QR code or go to and you can post online your cancer story or Take the Pink Pledge. As of this writing they had 3,413 pledges.

Variations of Dress Barn’s ‘Pink Pledge’ have been around forever. Dress Barn’s asks you for your name and email address and …

The Importance of Proper Positioning for Charities in Today's Economy

Dear Friends:

What follows is an address I made yesterday to a nonprofit coalition. I spoke without Powerpoint, otherwise I just post the slides on Slideshare. What follows is the text of my speech about nonprofit positioning in a time of great need.

Warm regards,

If like me, you believe that charities (or, nonprofits, or causes) have a vital role to play in the American civil society then you have to acknowledge that charities are being pressed from two sides right now and that many face existential crisis.

On the one side because of cutbacks in funding from government and donors, budgets are down and probably going to get worse before they get better. On the other side…especially for causes provide direct services… the needs have never been more pronounced.

Now maybe sometime soon the economy will rebound and we can get back to normal, whatever that means. But I don’t think normal means what it used to mean. Nine years ago a colleague and were speaking to a group of nonprofits gather…

Advanced Placement Cause Marketing

J. Walter Thompson’s white paper, called 'Social Good,' has attracted a fair amount of attention, including (critical) mention in these pages.

Most of the press has taken some variation on a theme of how consumers are increasingly critical of cause marketing, a conclusion I was critical of based on several loaded questions JWT asked in its survey. But buried farther down in Social Good survey was a question that I think is very credible.

Some 75 percent of those surveyed in Canada, the UK and the U.S. agreed that “brands and companies don’t disclose enough information about their charity/social cause programs.”

This mirrors exactly what Cone found in its 2010 study. Seventy-five percent of Americans "want to hear about the results of corporate/nonprofit partnerships."

Few cause marketers, corporate or nonprofit, get this right. But it couldn't be more vital to giving successful cause marketing the transparency it requires.

People want to know that progress is being ma…

Integrated Cause Marketing with Starbucks and MSNBC

Long-time readers know I’m a sap when it comes to integrated cause marketing campaigns that are activated across multiple media because I believe they’re more effective and because… having done of few of these campaigns myself… I know how much hard work they are.

Here’s how this one works: When you buy a package of Starbucks branded Morning Joe coffee, “Starbucks with MSNBC will donate to the project of your choice.” You redeem it online at using the code from the package of Morning Joe coffee.

The ‘with MSNBC’ line, I suspect, means that MSNBC is donating airtime to the promotion rather than cash.

Morning Joe is the name of the MSNBC morning talk show hosted by former member of (U.S) Congress from Florida, Joe Scarborough, along ‘with’ Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist.

Starbucks has been a sponsor... of one flavor or another… of Morning Joe since June 2009, drawing scrutiny and criticism from media watchdogs and others. The Starbucks logo is embedded int…

The Enduring Power of the Pink Ribbon

Every October... National Breast Cancer Awareness Month... I write a post wherein I bow admiringly (and low!) to the power of the pink ribbon. This month in America you can’t swing a leaf rake without hitting breast cancer fundraising or awareness in the store, the mall, your home, or in any media outlet.

To wit this FSI (Free-Standing Insert) page from Brillo, which makes steel wool scrubbing pads infused with a detergent, usually green but for the next little while available in pink-ribbon pink.

When you buy a pack of Brillo pads, $0.25 goes to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, up to a limit of $50,000.

Brillo doesn’t even bother messaging this promotion to breast cancer. Why bother? Only some crazily-creative Hollywood writer-type… Joss Whedon, maybe?…could possibly draw a link between breast cancer and Brillo pads that comes across as empowering rather than sexist.

Instead, Brillo plays it absolutely straight. Here’s the pink Brillo pads, here’s Breast Cancer Research Foundation’…

I Have a Bone to Pick About JWT's Trend Report Called 'Social Good'

Social Good,’ a white paper and research report from JWT, the marketing agency and division of WPP, has made a lot of appearances in my RSS reader since its release in September 2011 usually with some variation of a headline like ‘customers increasingly dubious about cause marketing.’

Color me dubious about JWT’s research methodologies, if not its conclusions.

'Social Good' is well-written, stuffed with a broad range of interesting examples and case studies from across the globe… a few from JWT clients… which is why I think of it as a lengthy white paper rather than something weightier. JWT calls it a trend report. Nonetheless, I suggest that everyone involved in cause marketing read 'Social Good.'

Moreover, I’m in no position to quarrel with many of its conclusions about the need for greater transparency in cause marketing, deeper integration between cause and sponsor, and more accountability from causes, having made all of these arguments myself in this very blog.

All t…