A terrible consequence of the Iraq War, and all the wars before it, is orphans. The VFW National Home for Children has been helping the children of fallen soldiers since 1925. They also provide services to the children of active duty military personnel.
Over the holiday weekend, Buick, Pontiac and GMC dealerships across the country donated $100 for every new car sold to the VFW National Home for Children.
This is a good example of a company using cause marketing to hone in on a key target audience.
- Buick, Pontiac and GMC all have older buyers so partnering with VFW's makes a lot of sense.
- As an American car company, GM is appealing to an audience that is patriotic and more likely to "buy American".
- The VFW encouraged its posts and auxiliaries to promote the partnership to its members.
- GM ran TV ads promoting the campaign last week. I saw one during the Today show.
GM no doubt hoped that vets would drive traffic to local dealerships over the long weekend. It's also one of those feel-good programs that just might convince a car shopper to buy if they were 99% sold. Like every cause marketing program, GM is trying to move customers beyond product and price and give them another good reason to do business with them.
I'm envious that the VFW had such great success with car dealerships, a category I haven't been able to crack. But even if Boston Medical Center could partner with a local dealership, could we really deliver car buyers? I'm not sure. We don't have the large, rabid donors that populate some causes (cancer, AIDS, even schools). BMC has many grateful patients, but few have the capacity to give--or to buy new cars. Conversely, our donors have capacity, but they generally have not been patients. In short, they're missing the searing emotional connection that will drive donors to say "I'm going to buy a car today!"
In addition to the VFW's large, dedicated membership, the omnipresence of the war in Iraq and the plight of innocent children gives the promotion gravitas with consumers, regardless of where they stand on the war. The stars of opportunity, timeliness, audience and emotion rarely align. The VFW is making good use of its fifteen minutes.
Not every cause marketing program works for every nonprofit. You have to weigh your assets and focus your energies on areas where you can best compete. Partnerships with car dealerships are great, but don't be surprised if they insist on tying their support directly to sales. If you can't drive sales you'll soon be out of gas.