Cause Marketing for the Disrespected

One of the old reliables in service journalism is the “How to Avoid a Timeshare Scam” story. I typed that phrase in Google and got 444,000 results. The words “timeshare ripoff” generates another 78,000 results in Google. ‘Timeshare hard-sell” turns up 78,700 results. “Timeshare nightmare”? 229,000 results.

I’m sure there are legitimate and above-board timeshare operators, but they seem to be a pretty well-kept secret. And so I’m not surprised that an online timeshare sales service is trying cause marketing to dress up its reputation. Because if you were a good operator in disrespected sector, one way to get past public cynicism would be to align with a cause that prospective customers could care about.

Public cynicism about market sectors that have been broadly tarred isn’t just a problem for companies. A friend of mine used to be an executive director for a nonprofit that specialized in wilderness therapy for teens. Their results were very good and they never had any deaths or any near-deaths. They had plenty of happy alumni and parents. But teens had died in the wilderness therapy programs of his competitors, and so my friend’s nonprofit faced recurrent skepticism from the public and the press.

“A timeshare,” says Wikipedia, “is a property with a particular form of ownership or use rights. These properties are typically resort condominium units, in which multiple parties hold rights to use the property, and each sharer is allotted a period of time (typically one week, and almost always the same time every year) in which they may use the property.”

Owners often complain that annual maintenance fees are too high, the units are overpriced, the promised exchanges never materialize, and, most of all, that timeshares can be virtually impossible to resale. 

Given their widely-known reputation, new timeshares are frequently sold using techniques that are just barely shy of a Mafioso style strong-arm.

In April 2013,… which is an online marketplace for timeshare owners looking to rent or sell their timeshares… went softer. They donated a timeshare stay and travel worth $1,500 to a nonprofit called Send Me on Vacation, which helps cancer patients and their families rejuvenate after their experience.

I have no way of know what kind of operator is, but the website includes testimonials from customers, plus a number of logos from reputable organizations meant to put your mind at ease; a Chamber of Commerce logo, a Rotary logo, logos from the Canadian and American Resort Development Associations., and more

Having taken those credibility-boosting measures, cause marketing is one of the few promotional vehicles left to

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