Making Your Cause Marketing Promotion Clear and Understandable

In the fall of 2012 the New York Attorney General’s office released Five Best Practices for Transparent Cause Marketing. The first one was “clearly describe the promotion.” We might assume that the AG was speaking only to marketers with malintent (to use the neologism). But being clear and understandable can also be a problem for marketers with good intent too.

Case in point: This coming weekend June 28-29 Dave Matthews Band is doing a two-day concert at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, New Jersey. The promoter of the concert is Reverb, which is a 501(c)(3) with a mission to make concerts more sustainable. Reverb frequently partners with other nonprofits in the tours it promotes. For the Dave Matthews Band concert in Camden the nonprofit partner is the Food Bank of South Jersey. Reverb asks that fans bring non-perishable food with them to donate to the food bank.

That’s a promotion we’ve all seen and can understand, right?

But, amazingly, the press release issued by Reverb and the Food Bank of South Jersey manages to be confusing and unclear. Here’s the pertinent paragraph:
“To come to the concert, fans are asked to bring a non-perishable food item to donate as they enter. Additional support will come from the Dave Matthews Band self-labeled seed packets which sell for $5.00 each. The proceeds from these seed packets will go to purchase fresh produce from a local farmer. That produce will go to the Food Bank of South Jersey.”
That first sentence sounds as if you can enter the concert for the price of a non-perishable food item, which most certainly is not the case. If you show up on Friday with a can of food but without a ticket, no Dave Matthews Band for you. This is a simple food drive, not a full-blown benefit concert.

So what’s the deal with the seed packets? Well, as the website explains, Dave Matthews Band has lent its name to a packet of basil seeds sold at the concert’s Eco-Village. Donate $5 to Reverb and you’ll get the packet of basil seeds. You’ll also be entered to win a rafting trip from the Wilderness Society.

Not everyone likes The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Critics find it too prescriptive. But two of their prescriptions still make sense to me; “make every word tell,” and “omit needless words.”

Had the writer of the press release followed both pieces of advice that first sentence could have read, “Fans are asked to bring a non-perishable food item which will be donated to the South Jersey Food Bank.”

Doesn't that more clearly describe the cause marketing promotion?

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