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A Word is Not What it Signifies, And a Pink Ribbon Is Not an Emotion

As of yesterday we are 1/3 of our way through National Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2012 and conspicuous by its absence is the one thing that separates cause marketing from every other kind of tactical marketing, namely genuine emotion.

Too few cause marketers get this right during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. That is, they use the symbols of the month…pink and pink ribbons… as a short hand for the real emotion that surrounds the diagnosis.

It’s a simple semiotics problem, in fact. Semiotics, says Merriam-Webster, is “a general philosophical theory of signs and symbols that deals especially with their function in both artificially constructed and natural languages and comprises syntactics, semantics, and pragmatics.”

Here’s an example using an English cliché from the American idiom: dumb cause marketing is ‘easier than falling off a log.’ The noun ‘log’ is not actually a log. It’s not even a facsimile of a log like a photograph of a log would be. Instead, it’s an abstraction of the idea of a log. I won’t go any further because semiotics can be a real mindbender, but you get the point.

Likewise, we utilize the pink ribbon as a symbol of breast cancer and the fight against the disease. But in North America the marketplace is saturated with pink ribbons to the point where the symbol doesn’t often point us back to real human feelings, those emotions that help forge our humanity.

That’s why I applaud Kroger’s use of the personal narrative on this case of its house brand of bottled water and in support of its Giving Hope a Hand. Printed on the plastic wrap are stories of women in the ‘Kroger family’ who have fought back breast cancer. Pictured is a story from ‘Rebecca.’ On the flip side is a narrative from ‘Jamie.’

The wrap is pink, but it doesn't just call on symbols of breast cancer. Instead, we hear the first-hand accounts of human triumph from living, breathing people.

Good for Kroger for bringing us back to basics of cause marketing.


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Top Eight Cause-Related Marketing Campaigns of 2007

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

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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.

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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.

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