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Asymmetry in Pink Ribbon Cause Marketing

Not every cause marketing campaign features the likes of the YMCA and Coke*. Sometimes it takes place between a charity which is very well known and a sponsor that isn’t. Or, vice versa.

(*Interbrand ranks Coke as the top for-profit brand for 2012. Cone ranked YMCA as the top nonprofit brand.)

I call that dynamic ‘asymmetrical cause marketing.’

For instance, Shiseido, certainly Asia’s oldest and best-known cosmetic brand and the cause called Cancer and Careers, which I had to look up.

The offer here is a straightforward transactional cause marketing effort. Buy a tube of Shiseido Lacquer Rouge lipstick in the color called ‘Disco’ for $25 and Shiseido will donate $5 to Cancer and Careers.

Research and experience shows that the most reliable results comes when the sponsor’s brand and the cause’s brand are basically equally well-known. The other two possible dynamics… the cause is better known than the sponsor or the sponsor is better known than the cause… tend to produce results whereby the greatest benefit redounds to the lesser-known entity.

So, research suggests, in the case at the left, Cancer and Careers gets more from the campaign than does Shiseido.     

Why would a sponsor or cause agree to a partnership wherein the benefits will be asymmetrical? There’s several legitimate reasons, including:
  • There’s real passion for the cause.

  • The fit is especially good.

  • A high executive really wants it to happen.

  • Somebody’s doing someone a favor.

  • Other compensating factors.
In the case of Shiseido and Cancer and Careers, the last reason provided the best explanations.

Here’s how the cause’s website puts it:
“In 2001, The Cosmetic Executive Women Board of Directors' came upon a startling realization: Five out of some 40 board members had been diagnosed with cancer. Some told their colleagues at work. Others did not. But all continued to work during or following treatment and came upon similar dilemmas.

“How do I tell my boss? What will my coworkers think? How do I balance work and treatment? What can I expect from my employer? What are my legal rights? What do other people do?

“The truth is, work doesn't stop once you've been diagnosed with cancer. Over 80% of cancer survivors return to work after treatment. And once diagnosed, work becomes even more important.”

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