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Out-Competed in Cause Marketing? Then Step Up Your Game!

Yesterday I was a judge in the preliminary rounds of my state’s DECA convention/competition. If you’ve never done it, do yourself a favor and volunteer. It will renew your faith in the youth of America.

Each student-pair got a prepared case study and 20 minutes to work up a campaign… the case study given to the students I judged was about marketing a new dental practice in a medium-sized community… then 10 minutes to present it in front of the judges. For our part, we were to ask three prepared questions. One of those questions was words to the effect, ‘won’t this promotion you planned disturb the other dental practices in the community?’

Perhaps half the teams felt bad that this was the case and proposed potential ways to remedy it. But one team in particular was unapologetic.

They said something like this: “If our promotion shakes customers away from the existing dental practices, it’s probably because they weren’t being well served. If the established practices don’t step up their game, they may go out of business. If they do step up their game then the result will be a higher standard of dental care for everyone in the community.”

I could have hugged the kid, especially after seeing an article on Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal about the growing tensions between the Movember Foundation and the American Mustache Institute (AMI), both of which are charities that do good work. Writes Shelly Banjo of the Journal:
“But now Mr. Perlut (a founder of AMI) and his allies are chafing at Movember's rapid growth. They accuse the nonprofit of taking the humor out of facial-hair fundraising and of failing to support other fuzz-friendly charity groups.

“’The unfortunate byproduct of getting too big is people take themselves too seriously and lose their authenticity,’ says Alex Aizenberg, who goes by the nickname ‘El Beardo’ and is the co-founder of Build-A-Beard, a website that chronicles the unshaven and sponsors charity balls.”
Last year Movember raised $132 million globally, the AMI a fraction of that. You don’t have to read the whole story to see that the AMI has been out-competed.

The same happens in cause marketing. The ‘best’ charity doesn’t always win the fattest cause marketing sponsorships. It may not be fair, but it’s real life. The race is not always to the swift. By itself, the better mousetrap doesn’t always cause a stampede to your door. The VHS video cassette system didn't beat out the Betamax because it was the superior product.

If the AMI just wants to chafe at the indignities served up by Movember’s aggressiveness, then they should lick their wounds and go home.

But the world of mustachioed charitable work would be better served if, as the high school student said yesterday, the AMI "stepped up their game.”


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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.

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