Is charitable marketing good? I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, as it’s a huge and fast-growing trend. It works, but is it ethical and trustworthy?
As David Frey wrote on frugalmarketing.com, “Many savvy small businesses are affiliating themselves with charities to market their businesses. Not only is it a primary means for developing a powerful network but also it helps others in the process. People like to associate themselves with businesses that support causes, which help disadvantaged people in a meaningful way.” And he follows that with, “Don’t think that charities are oblivious to your motivations. Most charities today understand your secondary purpose for participating in charities and are experienced at helping you receive a return on your charitable investments.”
I decided to research just a bit, as I find this concept very interesting. Here’s 3 case studies from radically different businesses.
The place that sparked a thought for this blog post: Global Peace Factory
This is a coffee shop in Frisco, based on helping good causes and global peace. This is not a chain, and from what I can tell, it’s a single shop with no other locations. I have a few thoughts on this place…
- 2% of sales go to charity, although I cannot find any place that says which charity. The website says “charities that really matter”. That could be feeding starving kids in Africa or paying for his mom’s new car. This is too open-ended for me, I would like to know what my money is helping.
- Tage line: a world in peace, not in pieces. I like it, but I don’t see how it ties in to what they are doing. It doesn’t seem different than any other coffee place.
- Closed? The place is nice, at least what I could see from the outside window. I got there at 6:45pm and the sign said they are open until 9pm, yet they were closed?
- Community. Their community page has only new products coming up for the holidays. Shouldn’t it have something about helping people or global peace?
I don’t mean to pick them apart, as it seems like a nice place, but it seems like they’re taking a ride on this global peace thing. I want to be involved in helping people and supporting businesses that help people. I’m having a difficult time with this place, as that’s the big idea, yet their business model doesn’t support it.
Famous people and featured causes.
Many large chains are participating in the charitable marketing movement. 7-11 has cupwithacause.com. I don’t shop at 7-11, other than for gas sometimes, but I saw someone at work with the cup pictured on the left. Intrigued, I started thinking about this new trend in marketing. My research on this particular promotion…
- Website information. This is a microsite for 7-11, a slow-loading, flash-based site. It has instructions on how to use it. Fancy. Complicated. It’s a cube, 4 sides of info.
- The logo.
- A short, generic description.
- A thing featured section on Snoop Dogg.
- Cup designs
- Tag line: It’s charity. By design. The idea here is that there are special cups, designed by famous people, that support the charities the famous people like. It sounds good and they are giving $250,000 per cup design. That’s awesome, but I want to know more. It sounds like they’re getting the money whether I buy coffee or not.
- Longevity and info. How long will they be doing this? Where’s the list of charities? I drink most of my coffee at home, but when I have an opportunity to go somewhere else, there’s not a lot here to make me switch to 7-11.
- Be part of the story. I want to see pictures or hear stories about life change because I’m buying into this promotional philanthropy. Selfish? Odd? Ridiculous? Don’t we all want to be part of something good? If not, this wouldn’t be the current marketing trend. We want to help and we want to be part of something good. I feel like they want me to buy their product. I don’t feel like they genuinely care too much about helping people.
Soda is good for you.
Pepsi is another company doing the charitable marketing, and they might even be considered the pioneer of this concept. It’s called the Pepsi Refresh Project. There’s several blogs about this Pepsi project, one of them saying… “It’s a genius marketing idea,” said Michelle Marley, director of development at St. Patrick Catholic School in Springfield. “Imagine the millions of people they’re reaching as far as building a database. Kudos to Pepsi.” Is it a genius marketing idea? It sure is. And, of course, I have some thoughts on this too…
- Project info. Pepsi has done this well. It was easy to find info about this project and easy participation on their website.
- Is their advertising working? I don’t drink Pepsi, or any soda much, for that matter. I don’t have to drink the soda to participate in this project. So is that helping them by marketing to people like me? I think the answer is yes. I might not drink soda, but if I do have to buy some, I will sure keep Pepsi in mind. Also, word of mouth is bigger advertising than anything money can buy in the marketing world. If I like what they are doing, I will be talking about it. A lot.
- Longevity. It doesn’t say anything about how long they will do this, but my feel for that, based on their project details, is that this will be ongoing. I hope that’s the case. When big companies participate in trying to make a positive difference in the world, and they are doing it for the right reasons, this will help the world be a better place. I don’t know enough about PepsiCo to know if this is the case, but I hope it is.
So, is charitable marketing good? I think the answer is a restricted yes. Restricted by companies motivation. Are they doing good only to bring in business or are they doing good to make the world a better place? Are they using the needy and impoverished for profit or are they wanting to eliminate poverty and support education because they want to help? I don’t have answers to these questions, but I do ask these questions before I buy into this heart-strung advertising hook, line and sinker.