4 Holiday Cause Promotions that Would Make a Grinch Blush

I do my best to keep track of holiday cause marketing promotions. I have Pinterest boards for Super Bowl Sunday, Valentine's Day, Halloween, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, World AIDS Day and #GivingTuesday.

But my biggest collection of pins by far is for Christmas. I have over 120 examples of Christmas cause marketing promotions on Pinterest. In sorting through them recently, I found several campaigns that made me mad, laugh and cringe.

How could I not share them with you!

Business, Charity Take Without Asking

New York City's City Harvest and The Parker Meridien ran this cause promotion a couple of years ago. During a visit to NYC and Norma's, the famous brunch spot inside the Meridien, this card dropped out of the menu when I opened it.

Read it for yourself, but note at the bottom that this was an opt-out fundraiser. Unless you inform the wait staff you don’t want to participate they’ll add a buck for each member of your party to your bill. There was no mention of the fundraiser from the waitstaff. I had mixed feelings on the fundraiser. It’s nice they're collecting money, but the goodwill is absent as most people had no clue about the fundraiser.

When I asked my readers their opinion, almost all the responses were understanding of the need but negative about the tactic.

Bad idea. It is never ok to take without asking, especially if its for charitable purposes. If it had been me, I not only would have opted out, but would have complained to the general manager, not provided the waiter with a tip (which isn't necessary unless the service/meal is deserving) and reported them to the BBB.
As professional fundraisers, it is never a good idea to require a potential donor to opt-out. "Ask and you shall receive" is how I was raised. Sure, fundraising is tough, but its never ok to steal. Finally - if the gift is coming from me, regardlessof the amount, where is my acknowledgmednt letter? The ask needs to say the gift is coming from the customer and being made on behalf of the resturant - which, I'm sure, will take a nice charitablke deducaiton on their corporate taxes the following year. I guess my comments make me the grinch!

The other side of the coin is an opt-out fundraiser will raise more money for City Harvest, an excellent organization. Yeah, some people will get upset (I asked the hostess and she said some people complained and asked for the donation to be removed from the bill). But most people will let it slide - as I did. Who wants to look like a Grinch by asking for the money back!

You decide: is it okay to take without asking when it’s for charity?

Coke Learns Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

In the fall of 2011, Coca-Cola announced that for the first time they were switching the color of their signature can from red to white in support of Artic Home, their cause-related campaign to save the polar bears. The campaign included a hefty donation - up to $1 million - to match consumer donations made to Coke's nonprofit partner World Wildlife Fund.

There was one small problem.

After the new cans hit the shelves in November, Coke got a slew of complaints from customers who wanted their red cans back. Many consumers mistook the white cans for Diet Coke. Some thought their drink tasted different in the new can and complained that switching the can in the first place was "trickery" and "blasphemy"!

While the promotion was supposed to run through February 2012, the red cans were back before the end of the year.

There's is a simple lesson here for corporate cause marketers. While consumers want to support good causes, they don't want you messing with their products to do it!

Charity Gives Jingle Balls New Meaning

This campaign goes back to 2012. Two nonprofits that wanted to promote awareness of testicular cancer released their very own scrotum-shaped ornament. Perfect for the holidays!

One organization went with the classic upside down heart - but it's not a heart, right? The other organizaion got creative and produced a whole line of decorations. My favorite: "Santa's Sack."

Slactivism Has Its Rewards

This is a 2013 holiday commercial from Unicef Sweden. Who knew that you could hang out with Ghandi, Jesus and Mother Teresa for clicking a banner ad?

I'm on the hunt for more examples of holiday cause marketing - both good and bad. If you see any, please send them my way!