The Art of Cause Marketing

Wkaj355_giving_20070524190837New Yorkers rarely instill this sentiment in me, but art dealer Guy Wildenstein seems like a really good guy (must be a closet Red Sox fan).  Why?  Because he's using his New York gallery to raise money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (his mother-in-law died from the disease).  He's charging ten bucks for admission to a Monet exhibit that is halfway to a $300,000 goal.

Lesson for Cause Marketers: Whenever possible, target businesses that have a personal link to your cause and engage them in activities that tap their interests, expertise and resources.  If you walk away with just a check, you've left a lot of potential value on the table.

Guy's very creative.  He's doing something very unusual: selling a ticket to tour a commercial gallery, which is kind of like charging admission to Walmart.  But thanks to good art and a good cause, Mr. Wildenstein has found a way to raise money that doesn't involve just opening his gallery for a charity cocktail party or donating a piece to an auction.

Lesson for Cause Marketers: Look beyond the same-old programs and fundraisers.  Generate some buzz by doing something different or by meeting a need in the marketplace (like real businesses do).  Also, focus on programs that target the red-blooded, not the blue-blooded.  What I mean is that in cause marketing it's better to target the masses instead of the rich.  A charity cocktail party in Guy's showroom will attract a hundred wealthy people, max.  Whereas his Monet exhibit has brought 18,000 people through his gallery.  See the difference?

Guy's pretty savvy.  He was able to to play the charity card and borrow dozens of Monets for the show from museums--including Boston's MFA--and private collectors who don't generally loan art to a dealer.  To underwrite the insurance costs for the show, Guy even recruited a corporate sponsor, HSBC.

Lesson for Cause Marketers: Being a charity has certain advantages that you need to leverage.  Show partners how you can get things for free or discounted or approved that they could never do on their own.  You'll demonstrate value to your partner and build your reputation as a go-to person, instead of a beggar.

Guy isn't stupid.  18,000 visitors to his gallery can't be bad for business.  And doing a Monet exhibit wasn't a random choice.  Monet is very popular with the masses (Heck, even I've been to a Monet exhibit) and Guy's father wrote the definitive account of Monet's career.  The exhibit is a good way for Guy to highlight his long and deep connections to the art world, which must serve a dealer well.

Lesson for Cause Marketers: Show your for profit partner how they'll profit from working with you.  You should be just as interested in their success as you are in your own.  And you shouldn't be surprised or disappointed if they are as strongly interested in their own success as yours.  The more they see the value of the partnership to their interests, the more your organization will prosper.  Trust me on this point.  Or just ask the good folks at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.