Brigid at Actually Giving doesn't think cause marketing gifts are real gifts. "Despite what consumers (and the product marketers) would like to believe, these transactions are simply Not Gifts." I don't buy that. There are just as many people that give as sincerely and generously at the register as there are people that give in other ways. Does a giving, caring, charitable person become less so when they're shopping?
Actually Giving has a few other complaints. One has merit.
A donor can’t choose which charity to support. No one is forcing consumers to support cause marketing programs. It's a simple yes or no. However, I do understand this can be a little more difficult with percentage-of-sales programs. But remember the donation from a percentage-of-sales program generally comes from the company, not from the consumer, and is usually set at a fixed amount before anything is sold. Sure, there's the promise that increased sales will offset the company's donation, but that doesn't always happen. In short, the company is making the donation not the consumer.
Even if a company does see increased sales, it generally won't support a cause with OPM (Other People's Money). Companies know that this isn't the right thing to do. That's why they give millions of dollars of their own money away to charities.
Donors don't get the tax deduction. Good point, Brigid. A good business idea would be to create a card that consumers could carry with them when they shop that would record cause marketing donations for tax deductions.
The world's problems won't be solved increased consumerism. No kidding. Fortunately, many cause products are everyday items like sneakers, paper towels and underarm deodorant. Not sure I want to live in a world without that kind of basic consumerism. Why not leverage it for good?
Buying fried chicken won't help women with breast cancer. The Komen/Kentucky Fried Chicken partnership is a bad example of cause marketing. There are many other good promotions that are making a difference.
Ralph Waldo Emerson set a high standard for his gifts. "The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me."
Brigid has a different standard on what a gift is, and it doesn't include the gifts people make when they support a charity at the register.
I try not to tell people what qualifies as a gift. That's up to them and, ultimately, I'm just happy they gave. I simply say thanks.
**Thanks to Heidi Massey for inspiring me to write this post!