Skip to main content

Quick Testing Your Cause Marketing Campaign Ideas

In April 2012, Instagram was bought by Facebook for $1 billion in cash and stock. The company had been shipping its product for less than 18 months when they accepted the offer. Even if, like me, you think that Instagram’s price was frothier than a berry smoothie at McDonald’s, you have to admit that the tech sector is building companies differently than everyone else, and this may hold some lessons for cause marketers.

So, what’s different? Well, one of the tech sector’s most notable playbooks “The Startup Owner’s Manual,” suggests one approach that more cause marketers could adopt; super-fast prototyping and, short, simple and objective pass/fail tests of cause marketing concepts and ideas.

When the authors, Steve Blank and Bob Dorf, say super-fast prototyping them mean it. They advocate throwing up a website as quickly as possible. Whether you intend to sell an ephemeral service like Instagram or a physical product, Bank and Dorf recommend you prototype a version they call the Minimum Viable Product. And, again, they mean minimum. The lowest fidelity version you can get away with.

Eric Ries, the author of another Silicon Valley business bible called ‘The Lean Startup,’ suggests in some cases you do no more than just put together a sales sheet and see how prospects react.

Blank teaches entrepreneurship at the Stanford, Berkeley, and Columbia business schools. He’s founded or co-founded 8 companies and served on numerous boards. Dorf teaches at Columbia and founded or co-founded 6 companies. 

Dorf and Blank’s point is to get the reactions of potential customers as quickly as possible. Naturally, one of the temptations… both conscious and unconscious…is to fudge the test so that it delivers the results you prefer. But not only is that intellectually dishonest, it’s self-defeating.

Moreover, you’re not looking only at pass/fail of a concept, you’re listening for unprompted feedback like, ‘if only this widget did x, then I’d buy it.’ Tons of tech companies starting out as something else before realizing that the business model lay in another direction.

YouTube was at first a video dating site. PayPal was a way for Palm Pilot owners to exchange money without banks. Groupon started as a way to mobilize causes. Yammer competed with Twitter in the consumer space before pivoting into a enterprise social networking site. Even Instagram had its start as a social network that was part Foursquare and part Mafia Wars. The list goes on.

Where’s the application for cause marketers?

Internet companies are like cause marketing campaigns in the sense that you really are selling fluff, air, and good feelings. Doesn’t that describe both Instagram and (RED)?

Cause marketers often feel like they have to build the whole campaign before rolling it out to the public. But just as it’s better to know if a business concept has legs before you put pants on it, it’s better to know if a cause marketing campaign is likely to work before you unveil it to all your stakeholders.


Popular posts from this blog

Three Ways to Be Charitable

I’ve spent a big chunk of my career working with or for charities. Many of my dearest and ablest friends are in the charity ‘space.’ And the creativity and problem-solving coming out of the nonprofit sector has never been greater.  Although I’ve had numerous nonprofit clients over the last decade or so, I haven’t worked in a charity for about 12 years now, which gives me a certain distance. Distance lends perspective and consequently, I get a lot of people asking me which charities I recommend for donations of money or time. My usual answer is, “it depends.” “On what?” they respond. “On what you want from your charitable activities,” I reply. It sounds like a weaselly consultant kind of an answer, but bear with me for a moment. The English word charity comes from the Latin word caritas and means “from the heart,” implying a voluntary act. Caritas is the same root word for cherish. The Jews come at charity from a different direction. The Hebrew word that is usually rendered as charity is t…

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…

Unconventional Metrics of Cause Marketing Power

The printed edition of Fortune Magazine runs a regular feature called ‘My Metric’ wherein business leaders identify informal but telling measures of current economic activity.

In the January 17, 2011 Michael Glimcher, CEO of Glimcher Realty Trust cited as his metric an increased number of black cars on the streets of New York City as a sign of the U.S. economy’s (still pending?) resurgence.

That got me thinking, what unconventional metrics evidence the power of certain cause marketing efforts?

One immediately leapt to mind, although only General Mills, which makes Yoplait yogurt in the U.S., can measure it.

The Yoplait lid at left... which I purchased in December 2010... can NOT be redeemed for a $0.10 donation to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Instead it promotes Yoplait’s sponsorship of Komen’s Race for the Cure events, which are numerous.

But I’d bet you a six-pack of Yoplait Greek Honey Vanilla that people nonetheless still send in some number of the lids above in an attempt to redeem th…