Two Things You Need to Learn From This Post:
1. We will see more and more cause marketing campaigns use social media (for better and for worse).
2. The successful ones will put the cause first and the brand a distant second.
A More Detailed Exploration:
Last Thursday, Ben Kunz from Mediaassociates.com asked me on Twitter:
Do you think @bmorrissey is right? Could SM (social media) cause marketing become SM (social media) pollution?
Ben and I enjoy trading contrarian opinions and I respect his perspective, so I went to check out Brian Morrissey’s post entitled “Here Come the Brand Social Marketing Bribes” about Kraft’s current marketing campaign.
It was the first time I had heard of www.sharealittlecomfort.com, which is primarily a marketing site for Kraft’s Macaroni and Cheese product line. If you don’t get distracted by the bowl of mac and cheese in your face, you might notice in the lower left of the website that Kraft is giving you the chance to “donate” a box of Kraft.
When you click on the link, it congratulates you for donating your box and asks you to share what you’ve done thru Twitter and Facebook with a pre-fabricated messages that promotes the brand and the site URL. Nothing is said about the cause they’re supporting or the problem of hunger in America. It’s just a “Look at Kraft and what we’re doing!” message. To add to the hubris is the stated goal – they want to give away 1,000,000 boxes. (Say “1 million” with your best Dr. Evil voice). While that could be a worthy goal, there’s no current tally of what’s been achieved, so how will we know if the goal is reached?
I applaud Kraft for their ongoing donations of food to our country’s food banks, but I think they can and need to do better. This current attempt at a cause marketing campaign can be more accurately described as a cause-me-to-wretch marketing campaign. Here’s why.
Cause Marketing Bubble
It seems we’re witnessing another major bubble – this time it’s the cause marketing bubble. Bubbles happen when people get swept away by a shared mania. A century ago, our ancestors were all over tulips. Now, we’re going crazy for cause marketing.
Common wisdom has it that the panacea for the current economic adversity is to align your brand/product with a worthy cause. Research shows that cause marketing leads to greater customer engagement and influences consumer decisions. It will help companies weather financial storms. And, it has even been proven to cure blindness. (Okay, maybe not.)
Here Comes Everybody (For Better or For Worse)
While most of this makes sense, the flood gates are opening with a wide variety of companies launching cause marketing campaigns using online media. Levi’s is raising money for a high school in San Francisco, Procter & Gamble’s Tide sold T-shirts as part of a social media experiment and is helping communities affected by disasters. Nautica has launched a website promoting its support of Oceana and helping to save the world’s oceans.
And, this is just the beginning. Cause marketing is the latest silver bullet, because it’s seen as a safe way to experiment with social media. Companies are banking that the public will be less critical of companies who dabble in the social media world if their efforts have some sort of cause angle.
Let’s celebrate this trend, because it’s going to create an amazing amount of learning opportunities. Many of them will be absolutely horrible failures, but some will be true innovations. Unfortunately, the horrible failures will outnumber the successes and fuel a growing weariness for those actively using social media to promote various causes. However, I think this fatigue can be avoided very easily.
The #Urdoingitwrong Litmus Test
Here’s a simple litmus test for anyone who wants to do cause marketing and not cause-me-to-wretch marketing:
Is the brand’s marketing more important, equal to, or less important than the cause you’re supporting?
If you answer anything but the third option, #urdoingitwrong. (To see the litmus test that inspired this one question test, check out Gennefer Snowfeld’s three question litmus test.)
For the examples I cited earlier, Kraft, Tide, and Nautica #urdoingitwrong.
- Kraft explains nothing about the need to act or the non-profit they are benefiting, buries the effort in a sea of brand marketing materials, and uses social media to broadcast brand-centered messaging
- Tide has some great elements of a potentially successful cause marketing campaign, which makes this one frustrating for me. Launching the initiative with a one-night competition that pitted social media influencers against each other to see who could sell the most t-shirts emblazoned with the Tide logo didn’t set the right tone. The ongoing impact videos have potential, but they’re buried inside an homage to the mighty Tide brand
- Nautica has chosen a relevant cause to their brand, but they’ve buried the campaign inside a brand-centered website that makes it difficult for you to find relevant information about the cause. The videos of Oceana are beautiful and compelling, but it takes work to get them. Plus, it’s not really clear what you, the consumer, can do to help Oceana and Nautica, unless you count the “sign up to win a sweepstakes” call-to-action
Free Advice to Salvage Your Campaigns
Stop pushing your products and branding on us. Push your causes to the front and let humility win the day for you. Forget about making sure you get the logo plastered all over the site like it’s a NASCAR event. And, please stop pushing out self-promoting tweets & Facebook status updates. You’re only making yourself look self-centered.
Only Levi’s is doing it right, even if (or maybe because) their cause might be a bit controversial. Their cause takes up the vast majority of real estate, while their logo is discretely placed and the company just has one page, which is focused on its history of support for social justice. It certainly feels like the cause takes center stage and that Levi’s is part of a broader effort.
Cause Marketing Done Right
Think of it this way: What type of person do you admire more – the guy who brags about his charitable work or the one who gives and serves humbly?
For those of you who want more, check out this “Authentic Advocacy” presentation that my colleague, Mitch Maxson, and I have been sharing across the country. In this, we lay out what we think are the best practices of cause marketing using online media.
So who do you think is doing cause marketing and who is doing cause-me-to-wretch marketing? Do you agree with my assessments?
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