I’ve written in the past about using a ‘MacGuffin in your cause marketing campaigns. When I tell live audiences about it often as not I got a shrug from marketers. “What do you mean by a MacGuffin,” they'd ask?
Alfred Hitchcock, the legendary filmmaker, used to speak of a movie's “MacGuffin” or plot device. “In crook stories it is always the necklace and in spy stories it is always the papers,” he said. In short, a MacGuffin is a mechanical device that impels action.
But even that explanation didn’t seem to satisfy everyone.
So, I’ve found the perfect illustration for the idea of a MacGuffin, on YouTube of course.
At left is a promotional video from one of the cable networks that relies on a MacGuffin to get things started. Hanging above a button in the square of a quiet Flemish burg is a sign that says “Push to Add Drama.” The sign, which all but shouts mystery, is the MacGuffin.
In time someone does push the button and what follows is a pretty fun ad.
For Hitchcock, the MacGuffin was often no more than a device, one that he often neglected after the action got going. But I don’t use the term MacGuffin in such a fleeting way. When I use the word I mean, what in your cause marketing campaign will make the target audience act? What will make them push the button?
At first blush you might say that the cause or perhaps the offer is the MacGuffin. In the aftermath of the Haiti Earthquake, cause marketing campaigns sprouted up spontaneously. And they worked. The cause was the MacGuffin.
The same could probably be said of several breast cancer charities and one or two environmental charities; the cause by itself impels action.
But not every charity that warrants a cause marketing campaign has enough punch, by itself, to impel action.
What might the MacGuffin be for charities like that?
It might be celebrity involvement, or a sweepstakes or media component. Or some combination of them all.
Now, a MacGuffin is no guarantee of success; not every Hitchcock film was a critical or popular success. Nor does the absence of a MacGuffin ensure failure.
But if your cause marketing campaign or social marketing effort is missing a MacGuffin, it will probably underperform. In other words, even if you have a cause that you think will pull just fine and an offer that your target market will likely respond to, you still may not be done.
You may need a reason for someone to 'push the button.' You may need a MacGuffin.