Skip to main content

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.

Comments

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…

Five Steps To Nurture a 30-Year Cause Marketing Relationship

Last Monday, July 22, 2013, March of Dimes released the annual results of its campaign with Kmart... now in its thirtieth year... and thereby begged the question, what does it takes to have a multi-decade cause marketing relationship between a cause and a sponsor?

In the most recent year, Kmart,the discount retailer, donated $7.4 million to the March of Dimes, bringing the 30-year total to nearly $114 million. March of Dimes works to improve the health of mothers and babies.

Too many cause marketing relationships, in my estimation, resemble speed-dating more than long-term marriage. There can be good reasons for short-term cause marketing relationships. But most causes and sponsors benefit more from long-term marriages than short-term hookups, the main benefit being continuity. Cause marketing trades on the trust that people, usually consumers, put in the cause and the sponsor. The longer the relationship lasts the more trust is evidenced.

There's also a sponsor finding cost that…