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Cause Marketing for Veteran's Causes Shows Support for Military Vets

In the lead-up to Veteran’s Day, held in the U.S. last Friday Nov. 11, 2011, Time magazine ran a cover package that concluded that the Americans and military veterans have never been further apart culturally.

Why? Well, the warrior culture and mainstream American culture don’t intersect much, the thinking goes. Many American political leaders have never served, in steep contrast to, say, the Vietnam War era when nearly 2/3rds had served in the military. And without a draft the all-volunteer military just doesn’t touch that many Americans.

Nonetheless Time’s conclusion struck me as reaching.

I myself was in the National Guard. My brother retired from the Air Force and one uncle died in the service. My father-in-law served a hitch in the Army. A business associate was in the Special Forces. An old roommate served several tours in Afghanistan as did a neighbor. J.R. Martinez, a wounded vet, is the odd-on favorite to win Dancing With the Stars this season. And my friend and fellow cause marketer Noland Hoshino is an Air Force vet.

And that brings me to cause marketing. Veteran’s causes are well represented in cause marketing. The Center for Social Impact Communication at Georgetown University published a study that found that the cause that most resonates with Americans right now is supporting the troops, something several sponsors seem to have already understood.

Outback Steakhouse has long made cause marketing with a military theme a key piece of its promotional mix and community support. On Veteran’s Day veterans and active duty military got a free Bloomin’ Onion appetizer and non-alcoholic drink. Outback has also sent employee volunteers to the Middle East to feed the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2010 Outback also had a special menu called “Red, White and Bloomin.’” When you ordered from that menu, Outback would make a donation to Operation Homefront. Outback’s donation to Operation Homefront came to $1 million in 2010.

The Georgetown study, called the Dynamics of Cause Engagement, found that 71 percent of American were very or somewhat knowledgeable about the topic of ‘supporting our troops’ while 39 percent were very or somewhat involved with the cause. The corresponding numbers for ‘feeding the hungry,’ the second highest scoring cause, were 65 percent and 39 percent. In general, Americans are more likely to be supportive of cause s that they are knowledgeable about.

Internet retailer O.co offers anyone with a .mil email account a free membership to Club O, a loyalty program. Members of Club O get free shipping, exclusive shopping events and “5 percent rewards dollars back on every purchase,” according to a media release from Overstock. The promotion was tied to Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 21, 2011. Overstock also has an existing relationship with the Wounded Warrior Project.

Even the little guy can get in on the action. The Eau Claire Express, a summer baseball team comprised of collegiate players, did a military night in their game May, 19, 2011. The Express played the game in camouflage jerseys and servicemen and woman received free admission. While the Express charges admission, the players can’t be paid or they would lose their amateur eligibility. So the Express commonly donates a portion of home game receipts to local schools, hospitals, Special Olympics, and the like.

Of course there’s much more cause marketing targeting military vets and active duty service men and women, including Chase’s efforts highlighted at the left.

We don’t treat our vets as well as we could. And we certainly don't understand warriors the way they understand each other. But Time magazine’s conclusions notwithstanding, all the veteran’s cause marketing demonstrates America has a soft gooey center when it comes to the military, veterans, and veteran’s causes.

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