I just got around to reading a September issue of The NonProfit Times, which has a long article on whether donors do or don't like slick. Of course, it really depends on how you define slick. I like Ruth Wooden's comment that most people have a "radar for marketing that's over the top or doesn't match the product [i.e. slick]." It's also true that slick is really in the eyes of the beholder. What's appropriate for a teenage donor may be "slick" for a retiree.
Slick is of keen interest to cause marketers because we often teeter on the brink of it. I recently met with a retailer with whom we've done a successful mobile program for several years. To goose sales, I suggested we add a promotion that would include a Santa Claus "Elvis" visiting several of his stores to hand out holiday music CD's to shoppers who bought mobiles. I was being creative and just a little edgy. But he thought my idea was over the top (aka slick).
A good example of a business that's pushing the envelope without being slick is Burger King. A Wall Street Journal interview with their marketing chief offers some interesting insights for all businesses, including nonprofits.
Think different. Burger King is at the forefront of using emerging media. They've boosted their spending on the Internet and even have Xbox videogames coming out featuring their "King" advertising mascot. Now, emerging media works well for BK because they target young men. You may be targeting a much older audience, but they too are using iPods, cellphones, PDA's and other new media. One of the fastest growing audiences on My Space is adults 35+. As BK has learned, the eyeballs have already moved. Be sure to follow.
Partner your way to success. The "King" video games are part of a partnership deal with Microsoft that gets BK into Xbox--giving them instant credibility in the gaming world--and Microsoft into BK's locations, which see up to 7 million customers a day. Cause marketing is all about partnerships and finding companies that can tell your story and raise money. But you also have something to offer them: favorability and credibility. Be creative in the partners you target (we recently partnered with an apple orchard that targets families, a key demo for Halloween Town) and show them that working with a nonprofit is a two way street (in the case of the apple orchard that other street went straight to our food services department, which uses LOTS of apples, and our 5,000 employees and their apple-picking families.).
Have a clear target. And you'll reach more consumers. BK targets young men, but their ads have a higher recall and likability with women than either McDonald's or Wendy's. Why? I think zeroing in on one demo is so powerful that it creates a ripple effect that touches many others. But nonprofits frequently focus on everyone because they don't want to miss anyone--and they end up getting no one.
The final lesson from BK's CMO is his view on what works, which I wholeheartedly agree and think there is a place for in nonprofit marketing. He says, "My personal philosophy is effective advertising stems from tension, and when it's provocative it's more ingrained in the culture...I think viewers today appreciate clever and provocative advertising." Amen. Elvis has left the building.