Blogging Out Loud

Connecting You with the Latest Marketing Tips and Trends.

The Feel Good Takeaway.

Cause-related marketing helps businesses, consumers give back.

While Veterans Day gives us moment for pause and an opportunity for both businesses and consumers to give thanks, it also serves as an example of meaningful and socially relevant ways smart businesses can give back.

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. 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.

Brought to you by Vertical Marketing Network, a Leading Integrated Marketing Agency.
Photo credit: Ben Fredericson

About JJ Nelson

Freelance blogger for Vertical Marketing Network; food writer; bartender.

9 comments on “The Feel Good Takeaway.

  1. Pingback: 4 Ways Foursquare Can Extend Your Brand. « Blogging Out Loud

  2. Alice
    November 9, 2010

    I think its great that companies are taking the high end and contributing to a greater cause. It shows the consumers that they’re more than just a business mogul but also a company that cares. It’s basically like paying for good PR too and another avenue for branding themselves as “that” company. By tying themselves with a cause related to their business, it allows consumers to have a better relation to the company as well. But, in the end of the day, I’d rather have them fork out their money for good causes than to rake up another bad commercial. =p


  3. Bill Ryan
    November 9, 2010

    A recent survey found that more than half of consumers are willing to pay more for a product that donates a portion of its profits to a good cause. That’s powerful. With that the temptation seems to be just too much for many brand managers to resist.

    The problem with cause marketing is that it’s mostly driven by greed, and in many cases cause marketing is nothing more than selfish giving. A Sept 25th Brand Week article pointed out that Swiffer gave only 2 cents of the approximate $20 purchase price of their recent pink package to breast cancer. That seemed kind of cheap of them, but then I found out that Swiffer only donated the 2 cents if the consumer used a special coupon to make the purchase. Otherwise, no donation for that purchase. If that’s accurate, it could mark the beginning of the end for cause marketing.

    Swiffer is Proctor & Gamble – One of the world’s most reputable marketers. If this is what cause marketing is to P&G, we can only imagine what less scrupulous marketers are doing with cause marketing.

    As business practices become more and more transparent I would expect a significant consumer backlash against the over-commercialization of cause marketing, and against the brands that have exploited worthy causes to make more profits.

    The backlash is likely to also hurt many innocent brands that have participated less selfishly in cause marketing campaigns, and many of the non-profit organizations that have gone along with the exploitation in order to get the easy donations.

    The replacement for cause marketing will probably be civic marketing. The Tide (also P&G) “Loads of Hope” campaign is the perfect example of civic marketing. Civic marketing is about volunteering time, talents or resources to serve the needs of the community, and then benefiting from the publicity that follows.

    Civic marketing is about doing – and NOT about money, so the motivation isn’t greed. It requires that the brand have deeper involvement, because civic marketing is about service, and it’s about doing good in order to build the brand’s image. Most importantly, civic marketing can’t become over-commercialized the way cause marketing has.


    • JJ Nelson
      November 9, 2010

      Great information and comments, Bill! Thanks for joining the conversation!


  4. Barbara
    November 9, 2010

    Our lives move so fast nowadays that we lose site of the human sacrifice that others have given for the greater good of this nation. It is the emotion of making a difference by volunteering or joining a cause that gives us the happiest feeling. Helping others is good for the soul.


  5. Kate
    November 9, 2010

    Cause marketing has really taken off in the last few years but it must be done carefully so as to not over expose or expliot a cause. Breast Cancer research is a cause that gets taken advantage of by a number of organizations which give awareness, but in the end not much money, to the cause. It is really nice to see companies that choose charities that directly connect to their brand. For example, New Balance collects gently worn running shoes to give to Soles for Souls – which delivers the shoes to impoverished people. This directly releates to their brand, and benefits New Balance by bringing customers to their stores.


  6. Danielle Conte
    November 9, 2010

    I always feel good when I support cause related marketing, especially when it comes to kids. Macys is doing a great program with Letters to Santa and Make a Wish Foundation. For every child that brings their letter to Santa to a Macy’s store to mail, Macys will donate $1 to Make a Wish Foundation, up to $1 million. Also, Outback is celebrating Veterans Day in several cool ways – check out their Facebook page for more info.


    • JJ Nelson
      November 9, 2010

      Thanks for the tips!


  7. Joanne
    November 9, 2010

    My Dad served in WWII … and this weekend I made my traditional purchase … a poppy. There aren’t many WWII veterans left … and they still believe in this country and go out and sell poppies to help support the troops of today! I have a son-in-law who is a career Marine, a son-in-law who is in the Army and a son who serves on Sthe eattle Police department. Thank you to them for keeping this country safe. I support and salute all businesses that support them and also give back to the community! I salute all of our Military.


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