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Archive for the ‘Cause Marketing’ Category

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I recently caught up with Shelli Difranco, Senior Account Executive for Business + Social Purpose, with my curiosity to understand the moving parts in engagement that drive PR agencies connecting brands with meaning. Shelli has the perspective of working from the agency-side for Edelman which annually publishes a report on consumer trust, the Edelman Trust Barometer. Trust is where cause-campaigns can have the most impact in developing a relationship with customers.

Q: What role within CSR does a PR agency play?

A: A communications agency can assist in several ways with a corporate social responsibility program.  At Edelman, where I work, we are involved in various stages – from initial audits and discussions on where to begin a CSR journey through a program’s launch and execution. We work with our clients to develop and evaluate programs and initiate fresh ones to fill any program gaps. We also help clients tell their CSR story to a broad audience, employing traditional media and conference opportunities as well as owned and social media channels. We further help them engage with relevant influencers and create linkages that benefit all parties. In truth, there really isn’t a role a PR agency can’t play within CSR.

Q: What interested you in developing CSR programs for businesses at a PR agency?  
A: Within our team at Edelman’s Chicago Business + Social Purpose practice, we represent a variety of work experiences – from nonprofit design studios to a state legislature to international relations. The main thread connecting us is a passion for social purpose and an ability to communicate what our clients are doing in that regard with clear, concise and compelling language. We understand how increasingly important it is for companies to believe in the social good and not just the traditional bottom line. We also know the value to companies when they connect with their employees meaningfully, allowing them to give their time, money or expertise in ways that resonate with them.

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?
A: I truly am excited about coming to work each day, and several reasons explain it. Something new and stimulating seems always to await me. In my first year in this role, no two days have played out the same way. It’s also rare that you can work with a team of people so dedicated to our clients and our mission to assist brands, corporations and NGOs unleash the power of business plus purpose for commercial success and social impact.

Q: What is the most recent exciting development in CSR?

A: Over the past few years, a shift has occurred in how people view companies and government. Edelman conducts an annual global study called the Edelman Trust Barometer. It measures people’s views on a range of issues that deal with trust – from managing employees, the environment and transparency of communications. We’ve seen a true change in who people trust most and how they instill that trust.  As consultants and authorities in this space, we consider it imperative to share these findings and help companies, governments and organizations change with the times.

Q: What sectors employ CSR in the most innovative ways?
A: I see companies taking responsible actions with the products they manufacture and/or market.  Many electronics companies are voluntarily taking charge of their own and their consumer customers’ waste streams. Consumer packaged-goods companies are embarking on often-radical, large-scale waste-reduction campaigns. It’s inspiring to see such innovation and commitment.

Q: What role are Millennials playing in developing the CSR field?
A: I would like to think that I and my fellow Millennials are doing a great deal to prod corporations and organizations to be more responsible citizens through:

·         Social media campaigns (pushing change from the outside)

·         Collaborative environments (encouraging change from the inside).

We also are choosing where to spend our money – whether it’s purchasing eyeglasses from companies such as Warby Parker (that donates a pair of glasses for every pair bought) or getting our cleaning products from companies with a commitment to a sustainable future. We are using our skills and our discretionary income in ways that those before us may not have when it comes to protecting our planet and doing good. This gives us considerable clout.

Thank you for sharing, Shelli!

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The following is a reposting of my first blog first during 2010’s October Breast Cancer Awareness month. I thought it was an appropriate way to close out Breast Cancer Awareness month in 2011…

Here in Chicago this October, I saw the color pink everywhere I went. Walking from a dance performance at Harris Theater in Millenium Park to Michigan Avenue on a fall evening, I looked over to see the Smurfit-Stone building, known to many as the Y- building, or “The Vagina Building,”  lit with the color pink. I was used to seeing “pink” products in Susan G. Komen’s Breast Cancer Awareness pink ribbon cause marketing campaign in the grocery store this fall, but I was surprised to see it in Chicago’s skyline that evening  (quite cleverly placed I might add).

What is cause marketing? One of the more concise and simple explanations of cause marketing can be found on Alden Keene’s Cause Marketing website (see below) where the blogger Paul Jones describes it as “a relationship that bridges cause and commerce in ways that mutually benefit both parties.” The Pink Ribbon campaign is a litmus test in cause marketing.  But does it influence awareness about breast cancer (and solicit funding to Susan G. Komen) in a meaningful way, or does it reach a tipping point when it seems to be everywhere without appearing to be anything special?

So this a big question, I realize that.  But I wanted to start coming to terms with this question by trying to put in words what went through my head when I saw the pink flood lights in the sky.

Seeing pink everywhere this fall reminded me of the concept of “normalization.” Don’t yawn, it’s actually pretty interesting. My Women’s Studies background makes me want to break it down according to Foucault (a social science philosopher who critically analyzed issues of power, knowledge, and social institutions).

Normalizing to Foucault meant how society makes something appear normal and how we in turn conform to social norms. The pressure to be what we perceive as “normal” appears to come from everywhere yet nowhere. The metaphor that Foucault is well known for using in order to explain this is the prison watch tower; as long as the prisoners (us) perceive ourselves as being watched, we monitor our actions, and the actions of others, even if a prison guard is not there.

Is the pink tower in the sky something as influential as Foucalt might suggest? Does it serve to normalize breast cancer awareness (and supporting pink products to help fund breast cancer research) in any kind of meaningful way? Will you find yourself next October in the grocery aisle reaching for a product with the pink ribbon, because you don’t want the people down the aisle to shun your cold, heartless face?

Normalizing and the pink ribbon tower… maybe that’s one of the ways that cause marketing has connected social causes with profits this October.

Alden Keene’s website, blogged by Paul Jones, is “Cause Marketing: Dedicated to Highlighting and Dissecting the Best and the Worst Cause Marketing Promotions and Campaigns” is at http://causemarketing.blogspot.com

(photo by Hirotomo of a Tokyo tower @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/travelstar/5046809289/in/faves-29654410@N02/)

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I recently took a hiatus from posting on my blog (except for last month’s interview with Claire Diaz-Ortiz, head of social innovation at Twitter) because I landed an awesome new job coordinating social cause campaigns at Groupon on the G-Team.

While I’m pretty ecstatic about using Groupon’s platform in my journey through the cause world, I’ve also been thinking about how causes have a tendency to make people feel guilty or defensive.

It’s the artist in me who likes to think of coordinating cause campaigns kind of like how an artist produces a piece of art. Art can break up how we see things by offering new ways of seeing the world.

This is why I want to give a shout out to a cause-campaign bursting with creativity here in Chicago- Tour de Fat. Here are five reasons why Tour de Fat’s annual tour through Chicago makes me loopy, unable to sleep, and all ga-ga about the cause world:

1) My friends, this is a good excuse to ride your bike. So let’s just state the obvious first and elaborate later.

2) In every city where Tour de Fat stops, one person ONLY gets chosen to exchange their car for a custom made touring bike. Check out the above video of the lucky guy at Chicago’s Tour de Fat this summer who dodges doors for a “door prize.” Ha!

3) 100% of the proceeds of your graceful, crazy-indulgent biking and drinking on a summer day in Chicago will for one day benefit a local bike shop, West Town Bikes. Tour de Fat raised $20,000 for West Town Bikes this year.

And let’s be real by asking the very important question, who could have drank that much beer and raised that much money alone?

3) My favorite form of theater, Commedia dell’arte, comes alive every year with Tour de Fat. Commedia dell’arte was connected to traveling carnivals in Italy during the 14th through 17th centuries. While Tour de Fat challenges social mores like the idea that cars rule the world, Commedia dell’arte made fun of the social order like the upper-class. It used stock characters like Pinochet, who made a wealthy man slip on a banana peel.

3) Tour de Fat celebrates sustainable technologies.

4) Families with kids who love bikes hang out with people who don’t have kids and who like bikes. Lots of different people at Tour de Fat makes this event fun for everyone…

5) My friend Phil is last, (yet not least), in my five reasons why Tour de Fat is my biggest crush this summer. Phil manages to bedazzle adoring fans every year by wearing a cape every year and soliciting signatures from hundreds of people at Tour de Fat, all without pausing between drinking a Fat Tire and a 1554 beer.

Putting Phil’s red cape aside, I think there is a tenuous balance between having fun, watering down a message, and making people feel guilty about causes. Tour de Fat seems to walk the tightrope between these things quite handsomely, balancing them on its shoulders, and this makes me want to swoon. This crush o’ mine reminds me that I would rather blush and stumble on my words around cause campaigns like Tour de Fat than adore campaigns which sit in the cogs and wheels of other less inspirational cause-campaigns…

What is your most fabulous crush in the cause world?

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Wow. So the holidays and my job search moved my blog posts to the sidelines for a few weeks. With that said, I hope everyone is looking forward, and taking a meaningful look backwards, with the New Year!

As for me, I came across some pretty interesting conversations about how social causes are connecting with profit as we approached 2011.

Jian Gomeshi, on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) program, Q Radio, played on Chicago’s public radio when I drove home from the gym a few weeks ago. Gomeshi interviews cultural leaders like Ira Glass and Jay-Z who contribute to topics like arts, culture, and entertainment. Part of his lively debate about society also includes a conversation about compelling and sometimes controversial cultural trends like cause marketing.

Q Radio’s program, “Does Pink Serve the Breast Cancer Cause?,” brings up some thought-provoking perspectives, like, how does it feel when you are fighting breast cancer and you see a Pink Ribbon campaign on your bottle of water? Is it really all pink ribbons and roses?

Gomeshi speaks with makeup giant Estee Lauder about their plans to set a new Guinness Book of World Record for Most Landmarks Illuminated. How will they do that? By flooding hundreds of metropolitan buildings with pink lights as part of the Susan G. Komen cause marketing campaign. He also interviews book author, Samantha King, author of Pink Ribbons Inc., who has a different perspective of the growing pink ribbon trend.

How do both parties view this cause marketing relationship? Does the pink campaign promote breast cancer awareness, and if it does, how?

Crank up the following Q Radio podcast and tackle the dishes that you’ve been staring at since Sunday evening to find out. They will be the most interesting pile of dishes to wash IF, and only IF, you listen to this podcast while you do them. I promise.

Click on the link to listen.

http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2010/12/29/does-pink-serve-the-breast-cancer-cause/

Photo from Flickr, by Tsar Kasim.

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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.

From looking at your LinkedIn profile, I noticed that you and I both began our careers in the nonprofit sector. What initially got you excited about bringing the corporate and nonprofit sectors together in cause marketing using your expertise in the nonprofit sector?

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.

What do you think someone from the nonprofit sector can offer to cause marketing on the corporate side of things?

Not everyone agrees, but it’s my opinion that employees at many companies, especially big ones, lack a sense of purpose. The social contract between companies and their employees doesn’t necessarily require that the companies give employees purpose, but the best companies do.

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.

On a similar note, where do you see trends in cause marketing campaigns in general, as cause marketing  increasingly becomes a part of a company’s bottom line?

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.

Paul, I owe you a hot chocolate.

Check out Paul’s blog at http://causerelatedmarketing.blogspot.com/.

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I sauntered into the Gap on North Avenue this weekend with my “Give and Get” promotion coupon that landed in my Yahoo inbox around the middle of last week. In a classic “buy one, give one” cause marketing promotion, the deal is that you get 30% off Gap clothing, and a nonprofit of your choosing will receive 5% of your purchase. Since I’m still ill-equipped to deal with Chicago’s winter even after living here for two years, the promotion motivated me- as it was intended to do- to shop at the Gap.  So I visited a Gap and I used my coupon.

After thinking about it Sunday night, at home with my new Gap sweater, Gap changed its reputation by the very strings that barely held it together in 1999-2000.  When I studied Women’s Studies in Santa Cruz and lived in a co-op, Gap was practically a dirty word. On Santa Cruz’s campus and everywhere, Gap was critisized for manufacturing its clothing in sweatshop factories using child labor.

The strategy of Gap protests in Santa Cruz (inspired by a lively women’s studies community in the Bay Area) meant protesting in front of  Gap stores naked (naked women using their power for political expression- it gets people’s attention!). Walking by the Gap in downtown Santa Cruz and seeing the gawkers watching these naked protestors (one of my roommates from the co-op included), I remember thinking, “I will never set foot in Gap again.”

Ten years later, it’s like a chime that goes in my head when the brand’s associations with “social responsibility” shoot past the clutter of associations that I have with brands nowadays.  It’s a sound that rings at a different pitch than the brand association that I had of the Gap before.

I don’t think the Gap is perfect, but it’s done a good job changing its image in my thirty-year-old mind. It motivated me to buy a sweater for another Chicago winter despite the negative brand image that it accumulated over the years.

To read more about Gap’s work with the Red Campaign, which is a cause marketing initiative/brand campaign with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis, go to http://www.joinred.com/red/.

Photo by Pavel Trebukov @http://www.flickr.com/photos/pntphoto/3205172116/in/set-488550/.

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Here in Chicago this October, I saw the color pink everywhere I went. Walking from a dance performance at Harris Theater in Millenium Park to Michigan Avenue on a fall evening, I looked over to see the Smurfit-Stone building, known to many as the Y- building, or “The Vagina Building,”  lit with the color pink. I was used to seeing “pink” products in Susan G. Komen’s Breast Cancer Awareness pink ribbon cause marketing campaign in the grocery store this fall, but I was surprised to see it in Chicago’s skyline that evening  (quite cleverly placed I might add).

What is cause marketing? One of the more concise and simple explanations of cause marketing can be found on Alden Keene’s Cause Marketing website (see below) where the blogger Paul Jones describes it as “a relationship that bridges cause and commerce in ways that mutually benefit both parties.” The Pink Ribbon campaign is a litmus test in cause marketing.  But does it influence awareness about breast cancer (and solicit funding to Susan G. Komen) in a meaningful way, or does it reach a tipping point when it seems to be everywhere without appearing to be anything special?

So this a big question, I realize that.  But I wanted to start coming to terms with this question by trying to put in words what went through my head when I saw the pink flood lights in the sky.

Seeing pink everywhere this fall reminded me of the concept of “normalization.” Don’t yawn, it’s actually pretty interesting. My Women’s Studies background makes me want to break it down according to Foucault (a social science philosopher who critically analyzed issues of power, knowledge, and social institutions).

Normalizing to Foucault meant how society makes something appear normal and how we in turn conform to social norms. The pressure to be what we perceive as “normal” appears to come from everywhere yet nowhere. The metaphor that Foucault is well known for using in order to explain this is the prison watch tower; as long as the prisoners (us) perceive ourselves as being watched, we monitor our actions, and the actions of others, even if a prison guard is not there.

Is the pink tower in the sky something as influential as Foucalt might suggest? Does it serve to normalize breast cancer awareness (and supporting pink products to help fund breast cancer research) in any kind of meaningful way? Will you find yourself next October in the grocery aisle reaching for a product with the pink ribbon, because you don’t want the people down the aisle to shun your cold, heartless face?

Normalizing and the pink ribbon tower… maybe that’s one of the ways that cause marketing has connected social causes with profits this October.

Alden Keene’s website, blogged by Paul Jones, is “Cause Marketing: Dedicated to Highlighting and Dissecting the Best and the Worst Cause Marketing Promotions and Campaigns” is at http://causemarketing.blogspot.com

(photo by Hirotomo of a Tokyo tower @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/travelstar/5046809289/in/faves-29654410@N02/)

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