Last week when I was cozying up by the fireplace with a hot chocolate, listening to A Prairie Home Companion… well, maybe I wasn’t sitting near the fire… but I was listening to Garrison Keillor spin his storytelling magic in my Logan Square apartment, I composed my first interview questions for what I like to refer to as a “cause marketing fireside chat.”
I wanted to sit down with someone who had expertise in cause marketing, but, hey, email is the way that people chat now. That way I could get some insights about how our errands in the next few weeks to the grocery store for eggnog and six-packs of holiday seasonal brews can increasingly connect us with social causes.
Paul Jones, owner of the Utah-based cause marketing firm Alden Keene & Associates Inc., graciously shared his wisdom about cause marketing with me for my fireside chat. Paul has gained national attention from his blog about the worst and the best of cause marketing campaigns. He has already been mentioned in Newsweek.com, the Los Angeles Times, Ad Age, Slate.com, About.com, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Utah CEO Magazine, the Salt Lake Enterprise, and other major media outlets. Paul’s definition of cause marketing is what I used in my blog post, “Do you live in the Pink Tower?”
Paul shares with us some of the reasons why he went into the field of connecting social causes with profit, how the Chinese are embracing cause marketing, and what his vision of cause marketing looks like for the future.
I left college, worked for a while as a technical writer (which I hated) and responded to a blind ad calling for a writer. It was for Children’s Miracle Network (CMN), a 501(c)(3) which raises money for more than 170 children’s hospitals in the United States and Canada. I didn’t start in CMN’s marketing department where all the sponsorship deals were done, but over time I gravitated to it.
I found not so much that it came easy to me but that it ‘made sense’ to me. Money raised via cause marketing is just so valuable to nonprofits because it doesn’t come from any of the other usual sources and its doesn’t rob from them either.
In fact, one of the benefits of cause marketing is that it can raise your nonprofit’s profile such that it can also improve your other sources of funding. It’s not for every charity. But for those that can pull it off, it can be immensely valuable.
Someone from the nonprofit sector (probably) has that sense that sense of purpose. If they can share it effectively in a way that makes sense to company management and for the company itself, they can be of great worth. But they really have to understand business and they really have to know how to communicate the values of nonprofit work to companies. And vice versa.
As someone who has been doing cause marketing for a while and keeps the cause marketing community informed about campaigns through your consulting agency’s blog (Alden Keene and Associates), what do you think are major trends in how nonprofits and corporations are working together in cause marketing? Where do you see cause marketing collaborations between the nonprofit world and the corporate sector in 2011?
Samuel Gompers, the founder of the AFL was once asked what labor wanted and his famous reply was, “we want more.”
What I see in the future for cause marketing is more, in the United States, but also elsewhere.
One of the surprising trends, for me at least, is the degree to which the rest of the world is adopting even surpassing what are basically North American ideals when it comes to charitable giving, including cause marketing. Sometimes without the tax advantages we enjoy in the U.S. and Canada. A research group out of Berlin called Global Public Policy Institute found that a culture of Western-style philanthropy in general was growing in places like the Gulf States, Russia, India, China, and Turkey. States like Gabon and Nigeria, were early and generous donors to Haiti. And remember the disastrous earthquake in Sichuan in 2008? The Chinese handled much of that tragedy internally using donated funds from Chinese citizens.
Edelman’s 2010 Good Purpose Study finds that citizens in Mexico, Brazil, China and India are MORE likely to buy a brand that supports a good cause than Americans or Canadians. Now I’m always slightly dubious about all these ‘intent to purchase’ surveys, because what people say they ‘intend’ to do and what they end up doing doesn’t always line up. But as someone who sold cause marketing sponsorships based on not much more, I can tell you that smart cause marketers in those countries will use Edelman’s study, and others, to generate more traction.
Smarter people than me see more ’embedded’ giving. One example of embedded giving is that the cashier at the grocery store asks you if you want to add a couple buck to your bill for some cause. There are other examples as well.
Zynga has done some cool cause marketing stuff. There’s been some intriguing cause marketing efforts using Foursquare. A couple of times a month I get a press release announcing some new online effort that will revolutionize business giving to charity, although none of them have managed to break out yet.
I keep suggesting that retailers cause market their house brands, but have seen only one example in the States, although there could be more.
One possibility that wouldn’t be positive for companies, but is probably technologically possible now is that consumers could decide that they’re all about breast cancer. So they could insist that 10% of every purchase they make at retail (or online) for the year… groceries, clothes, gas, etc… should go to one of the breast cancer charities. Or maybe they’re all about breast cancer in October, but in February it all goes the Heart Association and in July it all goes to UNICEF, etc. Certainly retailers and manufacturers would resist this. But consumers have plenty of choice these days and power they didn’t have even five years ago.
Are there any notable holiday cause marketing campaigns that you have noticed which you think will resonate with holiday shoppers?
I think Kohl’s Care for Kids campaigns which sell licensed plush animals and the like really stand out. I’ve long admired the Thanks and Giving effort from St. Jude, because it’s well integrated across everything they do and it makes good use of Thanksgiving. In my market the local food bank is extremely cause marketing savvy and effective.
Check out Paul’s blog at http://causerelatedmarketing.blogspot.com/.