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For many, Veterans Day this Thursday signals the true beginning of the fast and furious holiday season. Halloween’s tricks and treats have vanished from markets and minds, and the coming weeks are loaded with promotional opportunities and sales: Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, Hanukkah — it’s time to get your game faces on, friends. But first, let’s honor this week’s holiday with a moment of silence and with the sobriety it deserves, because while Veterans Day is a great reason to pick up that pea coat that’s finally on sale, it’s really meant to honor our military veterans. The government estimates there are 23 million military veterans in the United States, and honoring them with ceremonies and parades is the least we can do. From a marketing standpoint, it certainly makes some smaller promotions seem like an appropriate sacrifice. Earlier this year, American Airlines released two commercials honoring men and women in uniform, veterans and their families; the airline also has a military and veterans program that offers gracious perks such as priority boarding, waived fees and upgrades. This timely offer from Applebee’s restaurants honoring veterans with a complimentary meal caught my eye for being both relevant and useful, and the list of organizations through which businesses and consumers can support the troops is impressive in length. On a larger scale, Veterans Day is a reminder of the myriad ways smart brands and businesses can participate in their communities, not just by giving back, but also by acknowledging a note-worthy cause.
Maybe I’m just blogging out loud, but it seems like savvy consumers appreciate the take…and the give. In today’s marketplace, charitable causes abound, and cause-related marketing can help smart brands extend themselves in meaningful, socially relevant, and sincere ways. Truly, everybody wins.
Trendwatching.com reported on “Generation G” long before Vertical Marketing Network coined the term “Generation Q“. Whatever the letter, the lesson for marketers is consumers want more, and not in a greedy way. According to the report, there are three drivers for our need to give back:
1. Recessions inspire consumer awareness and conscientiousness — Big business doesn’t equal bad business, especially when they offer individuals watching their pocketbooks an opportunity to give and to get.
2. Consumers innately desire care and sympathy — We are, after all, human.
3. Generosity is a new status symbol — Witness: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oprah, et al.
Brands, businesses, even individuals react to these forces by making direct charitable donations, offering up freebies to said charities and consumers, and doling out other random acts of kindness. Giving has reached such mass appeal that it sometimes feels like cause-related marketing borderline on the absurd, or “deviant,” with current campaigns auctioning off everything from body art to Lady Gaga’s underwear. While it’s true that in our saturated marketplace every brand competes for consumer attention, it seems like the campaigns that truly hit home choose causes that are relevant to both their brand and their consumers. TOMS is a visible brand doing good things for consumers and a cause; with each sale of a pair of TOMS shoes, the company donates a pair of shoes to a child in need. Huggies is currently running the Every Little Bottom campaign, which aims to provide diapers to babies in need nationwide, with a goal of donating 22.5 million diapers this year. The Huggies campaign makes great use of celebrity endorsements, social media, and brand partnering with American Greetings. And lest we fail to mention October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which continually sees brands and consumers of all ages and genders sporting and supporting all things pink. As a follow-up to its recently added, location-based Places feature, Facebook has proven — once again — to be ahead of the trending curve; last week the social media powerhouse launched Facebook Deals, which allows businesses to reward consumers for “checking in” — among other things — with discounts and charity deals. For example, 24 Hour Fitness plans to donate $1 to Kaboom, a charity that builds playgrounds, for check-ins made during a designated period. McDonald’s and Starbucks have boarded the philanthropic bus, as well.
This Thursday, Vertical Marketing Network salutes our veterans and the smart brands that honor them. And everyday, we salute the businesses that blur the line between give and take.