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The Best Cause Marketing of 2011

One of the things I love about cause marketing is also one of the things I love about my wife; it (like she) continues to surprise me. Here are 10 cause marketing efforts or campaigns, culled from more than 200 posts in 2011, that were cool or fun or smart or effective or innovative or surprising. And sometimes all of those adjectives at once!

Here in date order of the original post are my top eleven Best Cause Marketing Efforts of 2011.
  • Instant-On Cause Marketing for Earthquake Relief. In March I was wowed by an instant-on cause marketing effort from Infinity on behalf of the American Red Cross for the victims of the Tōhoku earthquake that arrived in my email box less than 6 days after the quake rocked Japan’s northern islands. Cause marketing has its failings and one of them is that picking causes, figuring donation amounts, concepting and messaging, and clearing legal can take so darn much time. In cases like Haiti earthquake in January 2010 and Tōhoku in March 2011, time is of the essence. Kudos to Infinity for bringing their campaign… a matching effort… online so quickly, and for providing their example of alacrity to other sponsors.
  • Win One, Give One Cause Marketing. As we’ll see, Buy One, Give One remains an important strategic approach in cause marketing. In May I reviewed a new spin on the strategy from General Mills, which offered a Win One, Give One promotion benefiting schoolchildren in Africa. In 2001 specially-marked packages of Betty Crocker Fruit Rollups were vouchers for a free XO computer. A matching number were donated to school children in South Africa. There’s was a fun online game you could play that generated further XO donations. General Mills also donated cash to One Laptop Per Child, the nonprofit behind the XO, based on sales of packages of Fruit Rollups.
  • Cause Marketing for Dudes. In 2011, cause marketing aimed specifically at men begin to come into its own. One of the best such efforts came from Budweiser, which asked men to forgo shaving to save water. Called 'Grow One. Save a Million' (GOSAM), the promotion has been going on in a low-key way since 2010. Budweiser also donated $150,000 to the River Network, a watershed conservation charity. But in 2011 the campaign went Hollywood with the inclusion of Nick Offerman, the butch star of the NBC comedy Parks and Recreation. GOSAM was primarily Facebook and PR-driven. As a hirsute fellow myself, I think it wouldn’t take much effort to turn this into something very like Lee National Denim Day, only for dudes.
  • Buy One Give One Blankets. The New York office of the design firm Beattie McGuinness Bungay designed and is selling an infant blanket meant to help new parents in the developing world to understand things like vaccinations, average infant growth, breast-feeding, illness-warning signs and the like, and they’re taking a Buy One Give One approach to marketing the blankets. ‘The Information Blanket’ is made of double-knit cotton and features bold info-graphics screen-printed in water-based dyes. The BOGO (Buy One, Give One) price is $40 and the donation-only price is $25. The Information Blanket isn’t the equivalent of a new baby manual. It’s more comparable to one of those laminated quick reference guides they sell at bookstores which lay out how to conjugate verbs in Latin or easy Wordpress shortcuts. It’s design and cause marketing teaming up to take on one of the thorniest problems in the developing world.
  • Buy One Plant One Cause Marketing. Footwear company Oboz, which is a contraction of the words Outside-Bozeman specializes in shoes and boots true to its Montana roots. Their BOGO cause marketing is a straightforward and appealing; buy a pair of Oboz and the company will plant a tree via a cause called Trees for the Future. Trees for the Future thinks of trees much the same way that Heifer International thinks about domesticated animals; that is, as a provider of wealth for people in the developing world. Trees for the Future plants trees that can become a source of wealth to local families. Think about it, in addition to the environmental benefits of trees they also provide fruits and nuts, fuel, sap, windbreaks, shade, fertilizer, fodder, a protective canopy for other plants, and more. Since its founding in 1989 Trees for the Future has planted 50 million trees in 12,000 villages in 58 countries. It’s the coolest charity I’d never heard of. Three cheers for Oboz for finding it.
  • Paper Icon Campaign at Whole Foods Helps Launch FoodCorps. In August I was impressed by Whole Foods use a paper icon campaign to help launch the Garden Grant Program, whose aim is to offer 1,000 schools a $2,000 grant to either create or expand an existing school garden. The nonprofit partner is New York City-based FoodCorps, a subset of AmeriCorps. There were a number of things I liked about the campaign. * It was full-color front and back. * The headline served as a clear to action. * They used a narrative account to persuade. * There were donation options at $5 and $10. * There was a UPC code to speed transaction times. * It was placed on the counter, right next to the credit card machine. * It effectively branded both FoodCorps and Whole Foods. But what I like best was the enthusiasm with which the bag boy sold it to me!
  • The Best Cause Marketed Country Band. U2 gets my vote as the best cause marketer in rock and roll based on their efforts on behalf of [RED] and Bono’s own cause-marketed clothing line called ‘Edun.’ But which country act earns honors as the best country music cause marketers? In September my answer was the Zac Brown Band. Marketing bands and their music these days is a whole lot different than when file sharing came along. The Zac Brown Band, a country music act, uses cause marketing as a part of its promotional mix. Regular readers will remember that back in July 2010 Dodge sponsored a cause marketing effort that featured the Zac Brown Band in a promotion called ‘Letters for Lyrics.” In July 2011 the band announced a deal with outdoor retailer Gander Mountain that benefits the charity Soles4Souls, which provides shoes to children worldwide. When you buy a co-branded Zac Brown Band-Soles4Souls baseball cap at, proceeds go to the charity. Rock on, Zac Brown Band!
  • IGA Stores Using Private Label Food Brands To Benefit Wounded Warriors Project. Last September through November participating IGA stores across the United States offered $0.05 to the Wounded Warrior Project for each case of certain private label food brands sold. IGA is a huge buying and distribution cooperative for 5,000 member stores in 40 countries. The Wounded Warrior Project is a nonprofit charity that raises money and awareness for the nation’s injured service members. I’ve been agitating for private label cause marketing in these pages since November 2008. Here’s why: in recessions private label brands do very well. But once the hard times are over, consumers return to the name brands. But if a cause marketing effort could help an outfit like IGA preserve even 5 percent of the customers that switched to store brands during the recession, it could potential be worth tens of millions to the bottom line every year.
  • Embedding Cause Marketing into Your Business Model. Tegu makes handsome blocks made from sustainable hardwood embedded with magnets in its Tegucigalpa, Honduras factory. And cause marketing is as embedded in the business model as the magnets are in the blocks. 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. 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. As of this writing the counter at says 18,011 trees have been planted and 1,798 days of school have been donated.
  • Integrated Cause Marketing with Starbucks and MSNBC. Long-time readers know I’m a sucker for 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. That’s why I like this one from the Morning Joe Show on MSNBC and Starbucks. When you buy a package of Starbucks branded Morning Joe coffee at your local grocer, Starbucks with MSNBC donate to the project of your choice using a redemption code. 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.Link
  • Nature Valley Puts You In the National Parks. One Way Or Another. Nature Valley granola bars, a General Mills brand, wants you to experience the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Great Smokey National Parks in-person, or virtually. Nature Valley 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. When I posted in October, Nature Valley was also donating $1 for every UPC code entered from a box of Nature Valley to the National Parks Conservation Association up to a maximum of $100,000. I applaud Nature Valley’s donation of money and time for making these… what to call them?… ‘trail-umentaries,’ ‘docu-hikes.’ It’s a invaluable service to the parks.


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