We First’s @simonmainwaring on Cause Marketing

Simon Mainwaring

I first met Simon Mainwaring in Boston in September, 2011 when we shared a keynote on best cause marketing practices (thank you, Katya). Ever since then, I have admired Simon’s unwavering commitment to change the world through cause marketing.

His bestselling book We First is a must read for anyone who believes that businesses play a role in their larger community. I wanted to check in with Simon, and see how the We First project was coming along. Here’s what he had to say…

GL: How has We First been embraced by the business community?

SM:Outright the business community has been very kind and open towards We First, welcoming both the book and its message. That said, the purpose of We First is to contribute towards substantive change through which the private sector tempers excesses that compromise the lives of others and does more to contribute towards positive social change.

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Komen Arrogant In Denial

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At last week’s Cause Marketing Forum, The Great Breast Cancer Debate panel at the 2012 Cause Marketing Forum featured Margo Lucero of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Susan G. Komen for the Cure seen a 20% decrease in corporate sponsorships over the past year, but blames the economy rather than the very public fiasco it experienced when it pulled funding from Planned Parenthood.

Lucero’s statement met an audible gasp from the Cause Marketing Forum audience.
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The 4 Challenges of Cause Marketing

Downtown Chicago

Want to be my guest at the Cause Marketing Forum this May 30-31 in Chicago? The best comment wins a free registration worth $1,045.00 for a business or $795 for a nonprofit, compliments of Razoo (also cross-posted on Inspiring Generosity). A decision will be made tomorrow morning based on comments on both blogs.

Customers want brands to invest in marketing, that much is clear. There’s enough data out there that shows that people love brands that invest in their community’s general well being (skip ahead if you want to see the stats). Yet brands struggle weaving cause marketing and corporate social responsibility programs into the fabric of their marketing communications.

Some of the cause marketing problems facing corporate brands include:
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Coalition Marketing for the Common Good

Partners
Image by jdhilger

Just as individual web site owners use affiliate marketing, small and large companies and nonprofits are engaging in teams — coalition marketing — to reach common stakeholder groups. Modern Internet tools have made coalition marketing incredibly simple. It’s easy as setting up a web site and providing the common offering or cobranding.

Coalitions take several forms. Often joint marketing initiatives are fielded where both or a group of brands are co-promoted (almost like a large summer music festival with multiple headliners). For example, consider how your grocery store may be affiliating with a gas company to provide loyalty programs. Also consider how Zoetica and RAD Campaign co-market the Nonprofit 2.0 Conference.

Another form is traditional channel sales, where a brand builds a great product or service and the other markets it to its customers. Cause marketing relationships take this form, with the nonprofit offering the service and the consumer facing business selling it as part of a package to its customers. And of course, many parts of the technology industry are driven off the channel model.

In fact, if you consider the Google-Motorola acquisition this week and the issue of patents, Google acquired one of its Android coalition partners to protect itself from lawsuits. The intellectual property had become too distributed. In marketing “Droids,” Google was both using Motorola as a channel partner and co-marketing within a coalition.

Given how companies and nonprofits increasingly fill niches, and customers need more than just one product or service type, this trend of partnering will continue. There simply isn’t enough individual brand capital to grow in a desired fashion. Teaming provides the collective might needed to succeed in broad marketing initiatives. This is particularly true of smaller players competing with large established companies. So partners who naturally operate in the same space, but don’t necessarily compete head on will start gravitating towards each other naturally.

There are strengths and weakness to coalitions. Some considerations for partnering are mutual benefit to both organizations without costing or sacrificing too much capital on one side or another. When business relationships become lopsided, they tend to disintegrate or become one-off opportunities. In addition, trial deals are helpful, too, to see if the chemistry works between brands.

Obvious Bonds Are Needed

An Enemy of the People
Image by Shehal

Finally, a word on authenticity. Consumers are not stupid (see forthcoming Journal of Consumer Research article), and they know when a brand is faking it, or partners with another entity that seems out of sorts with its core mission. This is almost always true with cause marketing and the marriage between corporation and nonprofit. There needs to be obvious synergies.

But it is also true of corporate partnerships, too. The primary criticism of Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility is the unnatural tie forged with an Internet company owning a mobile phone manufacturer. The stretch is too much. Similarly, if Warner Brothers were to suddenly co-market Bugs Bunny with Playboy, there would be obvious issues in spite of the common rabbit icons.

Some marketers will tell you authenticity does not exist, that customers don’t want it. While this may be true for your worst individual personality defects, customers have expectations of behavior and delivery for a corporate brand. Note the difference. Frankly, personal identities that have evolved into real going concerns online need to adjust to this reality, too. When a brand is in place — regardless if it is named after a person — people have expectations of what the brand stands for, and the product/service that they will receive.

When you supersede those brand expectations in a partnering stretch to make money or paint a better brand image, customers balk. This rejection takes the form of less or no sales! It is important to be mindful in your marketing actions, and to be true to your brand’s core identity. That is authenticity, and practicing conscious awareness in business. Choose your partners well.

Cause Marketing Brilliance: @HardlyNormal Receives GMC Terrain at SOBCon

In a brilliant moment of guerilla cause marketing, GMC gave road warrior and homeless advocate Mark Horvath a brand new Terrain today at SOBCon. SOBCon regularly attracts 150 of the world best professional bloggers. The moment created an immediate splash on major social networks.

Adrants publisher Steve Hall was at SOBcon and had this to say about the marketing moment, “We all cringe when a brand gets in front of a crowd at a conference even though we know it’s the brand’s money that helps make the even possible. And we especially dislike when a brand turns their presence at a conference into a commercial. But that wasn’t the case with this giveaway. GMC handled it well and offered support for a good cause. I think it was very nicely handled.”

The cause — InvisiblePeople — is a natural tie for GMC. Friend Mark Horvath drives around the country every year helping individual homeless citizens along the journey. His efforts seek to highlight the many and often shocking examples of homelessness through personal stories, and to help the individuals with their trials (see case study).

“I often use the term ‘wrecked’ when things mess with my heart either good or bad,” said Mark Horvath, “What just happened here has me wrecked beyond words. The GMC truck and free gas is wonderful, but it’s the relationships, and that people believe in me it what has me so overwhelmed. I am so very grateful.”

GMC’s effort took advantage of several key factors; the high concentration of influential voices at the conference, an open opportunity with the cause (Ford sponsored InvisiblePeople’s U.S. cross country trip in 2009), the selection of a cause that matches their business, and selecting a cause that has high visibility, at least online. The well planned move was a brilliant example of guerilla marketing, and working with a cause to help achieve its mission.

Kudos to Mark, GMC, and SOBCon Organizer Liz Strauss for making it happen.