(Red) Faced

Dear Partners, Thanks for your many calls and gentle ribbing last week on the New York Times article Bottom Line for (Red).  No, it didn't present cause marketing in a very positive light.  But I was happy that all of you responded with a chuckle rather than anger.  We're lucky to have you as cause marketing partners.  Thankfully, you're not being publicly punished and humiliated for your good deeds like the GAP and American Express and Motorola are.  If you were, this is how I'd suggest you respond to your critics.

Cause marketing isn't the anti-Christ.  It is just one of the ways companies and their customers can support their favorites causes and charities can raise a few bucks.  It doesn't stop people from giving or writing a check.  It is not tangible evidence of evil in the world.  It helps create a bigger pie for everyone--another "revenue stream," to use a business term.

Laugh when they say you get more out of cause marketing than the cause.  Then say that if your customers are more aware of the things you care about then you guess you did get a lot out of it.  Tell'em you feel just terrible about that.  Also, tell them about all the things you do to market yourself and how it compares to your investment in cause marketing.  Never was so little spent on something that is supposedly so profitable.  Guess you should be ashamed to call yourself a business person.

It isn't all about the money.  Sure, cause marketing means tens of millions to (Red)--still a minuscule part of the $2.4 billion Global Fund (Red) supports--but for most charities cause marketing is more about visibility than money.  Cause marketing is a means to an end, not an end itself.  It's a vehicle to ignite donors and foundations--corporate and others--to give the truly transformative gift.

The end justify the means.  A Northeastern University professor quoted in the Times asks, "Do we really want something as important as H.I.V.-AIDS to be funded by holiday shoppers?" Like how the war against Hitler was won by turning housewives into welders, rationing coffee and selling cheesy war bonds?  If we can help men, women and children who have a terrible disease by asking shoppers to buy a pair of sunglasses or t-shirt--that they probably planned to buy anyway--or donate a buck at the register, isn't it worth it?

I hope you'll never have to explain your involvement with cause marketing like (Red)'s partners are being asked.  You're doing a good thing, and making a difference in the lives of thousands of needy people who are treated at the hospital each year.  Cause marketing marries your personal compassion with your business and your customers.  What has been joined together, let no one put asunder.

Joe