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An Early Favorite For the Worst Cause Marketing of 2012

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, hundreds on what I call Instant-On cause marketing efforts have sprung up. But none are as weaselly as one from a New Jersey outfit called Active Energy Boost.

Active Energy Boost is a line of energy drinks sold from self-liquidating point of sale displays. Active Energy is offering 100 free distributorships… or, as the press release puts it: “donating 100 businesses to victims, police and firemen, EMT responders, medical personnel, or any one who was either a victim or provided a service during Hurricane Sandy.”

I wonder if that also includes people who watched Hurricane Sandy news coverage on TV.

“We have decided that the best and quickest way to help 100 victims is to donate a lucrative business to them that they in turn, can derive immediate income to help rebuild,” says John Jacobs, head of PR. It’s a valuable offer because “each route and distributor cost us over $1,500 to start,” says Jim Contreni, Active Energy's distributor trainer.

Uh-huh.

Normally there’s a fee associated with being an Active Energy distributor. Although I didn’t feel like going through the registration process to find out what it is. They also offer route exclusivity for, I suppose, a premium over the regular rate.

In addition to the distribution fee, you have to buy the product up-front and maybe the cost of the POS materials as well. There’s a recommended purchase price. The store gets its part and you get the rest. Naturally, you also have to beat the bushes to find the retailers willing to display and sell the product. Take this offer and all the risk, with the exception of that first upfront fee, is on you.

The concept of distributorships was developed as a way to equitably split risk, and it’s a perfectly legitimate way of doing business. It’s how cars are sold and the way that bottles of beer and cans of Coke get to your supermarket. Snap-On dealers are tool distributors with their own trucks. Schwan’s distributors are much the same for dairy and other products. By contrast, little about Active Energy feels genuine, or, for that matter, long-term.

The Coca-Cola bottler in your town paid a hefty amount to build the bottling plant, outfit the trucks, lease the vending machines. But the payoff was that they get to sell a 115-year-old brand that is supported by hundreds of millions of dollars a year in advertising. In my little market, the Coca-Cola bottler serves up perhaps a million servings a day. That’s why a company can get a loan to help pay for a Coca-Cola bottling operation. 

This cause marketing offer from Active Energy Boost is almost certain to land on my list as the ‘10 Worst Cause Marketing Campaigns of 2012 ‘

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