Money & Business

Friday Buzz: The Limits of Cause Marketing

By / Sep 5, 2014 KFC drew controversy during a 2011 Susan G. Komen Foundation "Buckets for the Cure" promotion. (photo by jb912/Flickr)

While brands can build up goodwill by joining with a nonprofit, they should remember who is the source of that goodwill. Also: Don’t ignore social media complaints.

Cause marketing may be a great way to get businesses onboard with a nonprofit’s mission, but if it’s not done right, cause marketing can be an accident waiting to happen—for both the brand and the cause it’s supporting.

In a commentary piece, Bloomberg Businessweek‘s Steve McKee highlights how cause sponsorship is quickly growing—the Cause Marketing Forum reports that cause sponsorship will reach $1.84 billion this year, according to data from IEG. But if the brand isn’t careful, marketing connected to a cause can lead to consumer confusion or even a backlash.

That’s what KFC had to deal with in 2011 when it worked with the Susan G. Komen Foundation on a “Buckets for the Cure” promotion—which critics found ironic, as the company was selling not-exactly-healthy fried chicken to support breast cancer prevention.

And, of course, there are limits to the goodwill a brand can garner from connecting itself to a good cause.

“As with hiring a celebrity spokesperson, teaming up with a celebrated cause makes use of borrowed equity; the brand benefits from the charity’s halo effect,” McKee writes. “But borrowed equity is just that—borrowed. It may rub off on the brand, but in the long run, it belongs to the cause.”

Social Services

Many organizations have a problem: When members or customers complain on social media, those complaints too often go unanswered.

It shouldn’t be this way. Over on the BroadSuite blog, company president Dan Newman offers insights on how to better use social channels to create a good customer experience. By sitting out of the social conversation, he explains, organizations miss a golden opportunity.

“With well over a billion people using social media every day, and a growing trend toward people engaging with their favorite (and not so favorite) brands online, why wouldn’t you want to be available for customers to connect with you?” he writes. “And perhaps more poignantly, if you are ‘there’ to connect, actually be present to respond when someone reaches out?” (ht @ChatterBachs)

Other good reads

“If your association does not treat employees with respect, how can you expect employees to treat members with respect?” Association Executive Management’s David M. Patt calls out questionable hiring and benefits practices.

It might be a natural instinct to hide our Facebook posts from public view, but is it the right one? Gizmodo‘s David Nield argues that it’s a good idea to make some posts (but not all) public.

Google had cars that drive around and pick up details about outdoor places for its maps, but indoor places have been a bigger challenge. The solution? A giant backpack.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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