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Cause Marketing Your Customer Satisfaction Warranty

Orthotic insole maker Sole offers a cause marketing approach that addresses a different side of business than I’ve ever seen before. Although details are sketchy, when you return one of their insoles within 90 days of purchase (their standard return timeframe) a donation of some amount comes to the shoe charity Soles4Souls.

In addition to insoles (the company prefers the word ‘footbeds’) Sole sells shoes, flip flops, and socks. Sole, which is based in Vancouver, British Columbia, supports other causes via more standard transactional cause marketing, including efforts for ReCork, Karno Kids, Big City Mountaineers, and SoleUK. Transactional cause marketing is when a donation to a cause is triggered by a purchase.

But triggering a donation based on a product return is a really novel concept. Sole also encourages its patrons to send in their gently-used shoes directly to Soles4Souls.

But with this product warranty approach to cause marketing Sole is making three bets; the first is you’ll be so satisfied with their product that you won’t return it. The second bet is that you won’t be more likely to return because of the cause marketing component. The third bet is that you'll be more likely to plunk $50 down for a pair of Sole footbeds if there's a cause component to the return.

A news report in Outdoor USA Magazine put Sole’s U.S. return rate at 0.6 percent.

Who else could do this?

It would have to be for a product that is relatively small and easy to ship. Your USB drive could potentially offer cause-based warranty assurance. If you weren’t satisfied with it you’d return the USB drive for a refund, and the company would make a donation to, say, Dress for Success or Junior Achievement.

But it’s hard to imagine Ford doing that for its F-150 trucks or, for that matter, Herman Miller doing the same for one of its Aeron chairs.

This is an intriguing approach to cause marketing that I’m going to watch very closely.

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