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Yes and Yes Pink Ribbon Cause Marketing

I’ve been getting pushback from my Oct. 4 post titled, ‘Transactional Cause Marketing is Not the Boogeyman.” In it I dismissed people who get heartburn from the practice of transactional cause marketing, that is, when a purchase triggers the donation. Fear not friends, there is a middle ground as evidenced by Hope tennis balls from Wilson that you see on the left.

But first, the pushback. Here’s what I wrote then:
“Transactional cause marketing is a promotion. So are coupons, sales flyers, sampling, among many others. But let’s just drill down on sampling. It’s very clear that when stores sample a product you’re more likely to buy it because it generates a powerful sense of reciprocity. Cause marketing pulls many of the same psychological strings. So why does the addition of a cause make transactional cause marketing somehow more underhanded than sampling? For that matter, it seems that lump-sum donations are just as likely to get you to buy something as transactional cause marketing. So why not pin the donation directly to the purchase, and, in all likelihood, raise more money for the cause?”
“Yeah, but,” the response came, “it’s a promotion with a trusted charity. And so it’s not the same.” (Apparently my clause about cause marketing pulling the same psychological strings as other forms of sales promotion wasn’t terribly persuasive.) 

So here’s a compromise custom-made for people who think transactional cause marketing is too manipulative, but want to generate more money for the cause and its mission: split the baby. Don’t make it not a yes or no issue. Make it a yes and yes issue.

That’s what Wilson, the big sporting goods company, does with this pink ribbon cause marketing campaign. A canister of three pink Hope tennis balls retails for $6. Its partner in the promotion, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, gets $100,000 no matter what. And, the BCRF also gets 1% of the proceeds.

The reason I suggested a transactional cause marketing approach for OPI nail polish in that Oct. 4 post was that the company’s donation to the breast cancer charity has been static for basically the last three years. Making it transactional would probably raise the amount generated for the cause.

In saying yes and yes, Wilson is taking the sting out of those arguments that transactional cause marketing is unfair or insidious. The cause is going to get its $100,000 no matter what. But it could also be a multiple of $100,000 depending on how people respond to the offer.  

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