Skip to main content

Do Companies Have to Be Sinless Before They Can Practice Cause Marketing?

A post on the website Just Means from Akhila Vijayaraghavan is critical of cause marketing and it made me wonder, should the impious ever be permitted to pray?

Should teachers wait until their students know the alphabet before allowing them to speak? Should I, as a father, wait until I’m emotionally available to my kids before I listen to what they're telling me? Is Nobel Laureate Al Gore the only person who can legitimately donate to Greenpeace or the Sierra Club? And, while we're on the topic, could any company ever be morally upright enough to make donations to a good cause via cause marketing?

Of Kellogg’s Share You Breakfast effort, Vijayaraghavan writes:
“Some of the products that Kellogg (sic) has been promoting as part of its campaign includes Frosted Flakes and Nutri-Grain bars. However both products have been criticized for the high levels of sugar that they contain. Frosted Flakes mascoted by Tony the Tiger contains 11gms of sugar per three-fourths cup serving. In addition to sugar, it also contains high-fructose corn syrup.

“Nutri-Grain bars which are promoted as a healthy breakfast or snack option contain more than 30 largely synthetic ingredients. Again, it contains HFCS and 11 gms of sugar. It is advertised containing 'real fruit,' 'made with real fruit' and 'good source of fiber.' However it only contains fruit puree and 3 grams of fiber.”
If sugar and low fiber is the hangup with Share Your Breakfast, what about a company that actually makes low-fiber sugar, namely C&H? C&H is a long-time sponsor of Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale. Since hunger in the developed world is often characterized not by low weight but by obesity which leads to malnourishment, no doubt Ms. Vijayaraghavan would say that C&H has some cheek to donate to an anti-hunger cause. That’s a softball just hanging in the air and waiting for her to swing away.

But Ms. Vijayaraghavan doesn’t just see bad nutrition in Kellogg's Share Your Breakfast, she sees wholesale corporate hypocrisy, and cheap hypocrisy at that:
“Marketing itself as the purveyor of healthy food items for children and actively targeting them however, is a different story. At the end of the day, regardless of the CSR spin Share Your Breakfast is an advertising campaign. According to a New York Times article, it is their largest integrated marketing effort, with ads in broadcast, print, digital and social media. The Times reports that Kellogg (sic) spent $464.9 million on advertising from January through September 2010 alone, which pales in comparison to the $200,000 they spent towards feeding hungry school children.”
She’s really working up her dudgeon here…
“The food industry is full of examples of companies saying one thing and doing another. But really: Put your flakes where your mouth is Kellogg (sic), and come up with a CSR initiative that we can believe.”
By rights, Ms. Vijayaraghavan should have put a link to a place where Kellogg's has claimed to be a purveyor of healthy food items somewhere in those two paragraphs. But never mind that.

The simple fact is, Kellogg's does purvey healthy food. It also makes and sells unhealthy food. But should Kellogg's wait until its whole product line is sugar-free, high-fiber, low-fat and chock-full of good cholesterol before the company engages in cause marketing?

Or, to put it another way, can only the Pope pray?

There is one implication there in the last sentence of Ms. Vijayaraghavan’s post with which I have no argument. We do want to believe in the goodness of companies. My question is, do they have to be ‘sinless’... whatever that might mean... before we can believe in them?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Top Eight Cause-Related Marketing Campaigns of 2007

Yeah, You Read it Right. It's a Top 8 List.

More cause-related marketing campaigns are unveiled every day across the world than I review in a year at the cause-related marketing blog. And, frankly, I don’t see very many campaigns from outside North America. So I won’t pretend that my annual list of the top cause-related marketing campaigns is exhaustive.

But, like any other self-respecting blogger, I won’t let my superficial purview stop me from drawing my own tortured conclusions!

So… cue the drumroll (and the dismissive snickers)… without further ado, here is my list of the eight best cause-related marketing campaigns of 2007.

My list of the worst cause-related marketing campaigns of 2007 follows on Thursday.


Chilis and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
I was delighted by the scope of Chilis’ campaign for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. As you walked in you saw the servers adorned in black co-branded shirts. Other elements included message points on the Chilis beverage coas…

Cause-Related Marketing Meets Microfinance

Kiva.org and Advanta.com Mix it Up

You’d have had to have been in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia the last year or so to have missed the run up of microfinance. Between 2004 and 2006 more than $4 billion of capital flowed into microfinance institutions. All told experts say the total loan microfinance loan portfolio may be as much as $12.5 billion. And of course the father of microfinance, Muhammad Yunus won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Microfinance is now so respectable, so effective, (so profitable!) that it’s already enjoying its first global backlash.

Actually that first sentence is hyperbole. Because even in Ulaanbaatar… far from almost anywhere on the vast, frigid steppes of Mongolia… microfinance is thriving such that the earliest recipients of micro loans there are now complaining about taxes and government bureaucracy! And May 29-31, 2008 the Conference of Microfinance Institutions will convene in Ulaanbaatar, the eleventh such annual conference.
Now Advanta, a credit card issuer to small…

Cause Marketing Beer with BOGO, Brew One Give One

On Monday’s post I touched on the topic of telling people what your cause marketing campaign accomplished when completed. I’ve recommended this approach to clients as a way to keep open the lines of communication with customers and clients and to get extra value from the campaign.

In other words, you’ll want to hold back some of the promotion’s budget to continue to activate the effort until the very end.

But what if that really cuts across the grain in your organization? What if it’s just not in your corporate DNA to do anything but to frontload your cause marketing activation? Well, then, add the report back to the activation of your next cause marketing effort.

New Belgium Brewing of Ft. Collins, Colorado, said to be the seventh largest brewery in the United States, did just that with this ad in Sunset magazine. I found this ad in the Alden Keene Cause Marketing Database.

New Belgium donates $1 for every barrel it brews and sells. It’s a BOGO cause marketing effort, Buy One Give One. …