Fun Cause Marketing Promotion, Wrong Holiday

Today is Memorial Day 2013 in the United States. Memorial Day is a federal holiday, but also a day to do a little cause marketing. CSK, the big railway company is doing just that with their campaign on behalf of the Wounded Warrior Project called, Drop and Give Them 10. It’s a fun campaign that just happens be on the wrong holiday.

Drop and give me ten is an American colloquialism that means to do ten pushups. When you do 10 pushups and visit the campaign website and affirm that you did yours, CSX will donate a dollar to the Wounded Warrior Project. Post it on your social network and CSX will donate another $1. The total donation is capped at $50,000. The campaign started Monday, May 20 2013 and runs through Wednesday, May 29.

Why pushups? “All service members have a few things in common:” says the campaign website, “bravery, sacrifice and, of course, the pushup. This Memorial Day, to honor the men and women of the military, CSX is asking all Americans to do 10 pushups.”    

CSX, whose revenue (or turnover as our friends in the UK put it) is nearly $12 billion, is an interesting sponsor for a cause marketing effort. CSX provides transportation services along all along the eastern seaboard in North America via rail and truck. The average American or Canadian consumer would be hard-pressed to directly buy a service that CSX provides; CSX’s customers are other businesses. But a consumer on the East Coast would be no less hard-pressed to buy a consumer product that CSX hasn’t had some hand in delivering to market.

So how is Memorial Day the wrong holiday? Well, Memorial Day is the federal holiday when we remember all who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Today I will lay some mums on the grave of an uncle who died during the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes during World War Two. Now Memorial Day has come to encompass a remembrance of loved ones who have passed. And so today I’ll also put flowers on the graves of kin who didn’t die while in the Armed Service.

Nonetheless, Memorial Day is not the U.S. holiday when we honor the bravery and sacrifice of all who have served in the armed forces. We have another federal holiday for that called Veteran’s Day which, like Remembrance Day (aka ‘Poppy Day’) in the Commonwealth countries, falls on November 11. November 11 is also Armistice Day, or the end of hostilities in World War One.

I suspect that CSX and whoever helped the company put the campaign together knows that Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day aren’t interchangeable. Doing this promotion on Memorial Day was probably a conscience choice. They either didn’t want to wait until November, thought the campaign would do better at the start of summer, or felt like Memorial Day has come to be a generic time to celebrate the men and women of the military, just as it’s become a generic time to remember loved ones who have passed away.

But I’d argue the other side of this. Every retailer in the country runs sales promotions at Memorial Day. The Wounded Warrior Project is a good cause, but people are thinking about picnics, camping, BBQs, visiting cemeteries, enjoying the day off, and buying all the foodstuffs and other items that will help them accomplish those goals. It’s not an ideal time to pump up your B2B brand. Indeed, as I write this the counter at www.dropandgivemthem10.com has recorded only 72, 270 pushups.

Since CSX isn’t promoting a product you can buy with Drop and Give Them 10, better not to compete against all the retail clutter of Memorial Day it seems to me. Especially when the right holiday… Veterans Day… already exists and is under-utilized by cause marketers.

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