Skip to main content

Failing Faster in Cause Marketing

Back in 2007 and 2008 Hamburger Helper ran a fun cause marketing promotion called My Hometown Helper that I don’t remember at all. In fact, there’s nothing about it at, the campaign’s old website. Dial up that URL and you’ll be redirected to If not for the Alden Keene Cause Marketing Database and the long tail of the Internet, My Hometown Helper would be just a distant memory for the Hamburger Helper brand manager and the recipients of the grants.  

Here’s what a press release from General Mills, which owns the Hamburger Helper brand, said about the campaign in February 2008.
“Today, Hamburger Helper announces the call for entries to the 2008 "My Hometown Helper" grant program, a nationwide initiative that lends a "helping hand" to local groups making a  difference in their community. People looking to improve their hometown --  from helping fund a volunteer fire department, to restoring a town landmark, to supporting a local school -- are encouraged to submit their entries before time runs out. From February 1st to March 31st, communities seeking support can visit to apply online for a one-time grant to help fund a local project.

“’Our communities are incredibly important to us," said Hyun Mee Graves, Marketing Manager for Hamburger Helper. ‘Last fall's 'My Hometown Helper' grant program was a tremendous success, and we are reaching out to more communities in need with a second wave of the program this spring. We're dedicated to supporting projects that are making a difference right in your hometown.’

“Between February 1st and March 31st, applicants can submit an essay of 250 words or less describing how the grant would help with their community project. Award amounts will range from $500 to $15,000 and all requests for funding must be sponsored by a charitable organization, municipal or civic organization, or a public school. Funds will be awarded based on the merit of the project, including its impact on, and support within, the community, among other factors….

“Last year, 'My Hometown Helper' gave away more than $200,000 in grants and helped communities purchase new band equipment, build a school playground and fund a tornado warning system, among other great projects.”
I love cause marketing campaigns that go on for year after year because they build equity and momentum. Since every cause marketing effort isn’t likely to be a winner, one way to look at short-lived campaigns is that they’re a vital part of the process of learning what does and does not work.

In such cases, failure IS an option is a helpful mindset (unless you got astronauts trying to get home alive from an orbit of the moon. In which case, failure is not an option).

The problem with failure is that sometimes it’s just too darn slow. Think about it, in the movie Apollo 13, what saved astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise was that the engineers and technicians back in Houston failed really fast on their way to an eventual solution.

What cause marketing needs right now is causes and sponsors who are willing to risk failure in order to find the cause marketing campaign that really sings. And they need to fail in Internet time. That is, quickly.

Like Eric Ries, preaches in his book, the Lean Startup we cause marketers have got to find cheaper, faster ways to test the market potential of different cause marketing approaches. It’s not enough anymore to build something and then hope people like what you built.

Such an approach will take nerves of steel, the faith of a saint and, probably, the Internet, which enables failure to be quickly gauged.


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 and 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. …