4 Cause Marketing Campaigns to Celebrate on Independence Day

Wristbandx largeThe Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays so I'm combining it with my other favorite thing: cause marketing. For the next four days I'm profiling four different cause marketing programs to celebrate Independence Day. My first pick is Starbucks' Indivisible campaign. Indivisible isn't a new program or specifically focused on Independence Day. It's been around since October when Starbucks began selling the Indivisible bracelet. But this program has special meaning on the Fourth.

On June 29th, Starbuck's Howard Schultz released an open letter to the American people.

Across the country, millions of Americans are out of work. Many more are working tirelessly yet still unable to adequately care for their families. Our veterans are not being welcomed home with the level of support they deserve. Meanwhile, in our nation’s capital, our elected leaders are continuing to put ideology over real solutions. I love America, but we all know there is something wrong. The deficits this country must reconcile are much more than financial, and our inability to solve our own problems is sapping our national spirit. We are better than this. America’s history has showed that we have accomplished extraordinary things when we act collectively, with courage, creativity, and generosity of spirit—especially during trying times.

As we celebrate all that is great about our country, let’s come together and amplify our voices.

To me, this is what Independence Day is all about. It's not just about BBQ's, fireworks and road races. It's about prodding and questioning what was created on that day in 1776, and how it can be improved. That's what the former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglas did on Independence Day in 1852 when he asked What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?. Suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony also poked and prodded on the Centennial with a Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States.

Schultz is in good company.

The cause marketing component of Indivisible - the bracelets, the tumblers and the coffee that fund getting America back to work - isn't the message. But it is the message bearer of the important news Starbucks is rushing to deliver. Will we heed the alarm bell? Thanks to cause marketing, it rings every time we visit a Starbucks.

Tune in tomorrow for my second pick of marketing programs to celebrate on Independence Day. 

Starbucks Mobile Payments May Give Cause Marketing a Jolt

I love the new mobile payment app from Starbucks. It's great having one less card to carry around (I'm down to a driver's license and a credit card). There's also a total coolness factor, especially when Chris Noble introduced me to the new app several weeks before most people, including most of the staff at Starbucks, knew it was working in stores.

Explaining the technology to the cashier, assuring them it would work if they carefully followed my instructions. Answering the questions of the people in line behind me. I never felt so "in the know" in all my life. God I hope it happens again.

But enough about me.

As Starbucks goes so goes American business. Target has been using this very technology since last February, but I didn't hear about it until the news spread late last year that you could use your smartphone to buy your Starbucks at Target.

This isn't the first time that Starbucks has led adoption.

Starbucks partnership with Product Red put cause marketing on display like no other brand ever did, including the Gap and Apple, and drove the popularity of cause marketing to new heights.

Again last year when Starbucks began offering specials through Foursquare it modeled a new idea for all businesses. Whether you were in a Starbucks or near one the "Specials" banner was not just an offer, but a pitch for all businesses to try Foursquare.

The next frontier is mobility payments. There's certainly a good chance that many businesses will follow suit, especially larger ones like McDonald's that might already have or can quickly put the infrastructure in place.

Some have pointed out that at face value, mobile payments aren't really that much easier than whipping out your Starbucks Gold Card. True, unless your like me and your iPhone is glued to your hand.

But here's something a plastic Starbucks card can't do: it can't marry sales with location.

Catharine Taylor at Social Media Insider last week wrote about the potential connection between mobile payments and Foursquare.

As Starbucks and Foursquare are already partners in commerce, imagine a default that automatically generates a Foursquare check-in when you transact a mobile payment. No work required. No having to append your location when you tweet, or anything like that. That's exactly what I've been looking for! Being able to check in without doing a damn thing!

Maybe that sounds lazy, but we all know that the less work required by the user, the more palatable something becomes. Not only does the potential of marrying mobile payments to check-ins make this a more popular behavior (or non-behavior, since you're not doing anything), it also makes the road just a little smoother to my inevitable claiming of the mayorship of my local Starbucks, with all of the perks that come with it. Seriously though, making check-ins automatic with mobile payments, for those who opt-in, will obviously drive loyalty programs, including ones targeted to those who frequently publicize they are at a local store, becoming an ad vehicle, if you will. There are more ramifications, to be sure, but that's the primary one that jumps to my mind.

Catharine believes that such a marriage would drive adoption of location-based services like Foursquare [Check out what people said when I asked the question at Quora: "How will mobile payments, like those found at Starbucks, and location based services like Foursquare work together?"]

This would be great for cause marketing in several ways.

  1. As I've posted on before, location-based services are a key part of the future of cause marketing. They can inform, remind, educate and direct consumers. While they will never replace the human touch, they engage and reinforce.
  2. While it may seem lazy to let users check-in to Foursquare when they're making a mobile payment, that doesn't mean we can't push notifications back to them. We can share what causes their check-in supported and what else they can do to help. They can also earn the usual array of badges, incentives and karma points for their efforts.
  3. Mike Schneider and Anne Mai Bertelsen wrote a great post in October talking about location-based data mining from multiple stores.

Take this example: if every day a consumer purchases a latte from Starbucks and then walks across the street to Dunkin' Donuts to pick up a turkey sausage flatbread, both companies could benefit from that information. If many customers display similar habits, Starbucks could add a similar breakfast sandwich to their menu or even discontinue their current breakfast fare at that location. That level of data provides a more holistic view of consumer behavior, and could ultimately help brands become more relevant and timely.

Mike and Anne are really on to something here, and linking mobile payments with location would really boost data collection. Causes would also benefit from the intelligence.

If a consumer supports Conservation International at Starbucks and then shops at a fair trade store and picks up a free-range chicken lunch at Whole Foods, maybe that impacts the types of causes they're asked to support when arrive at the register at Target. Or perhaps a standalone business can use customer check-ins and donations in their area to help it pick an appropriate cause partner for a new program.

Mobile payments and location can also work together in other ways. Purchases on your smartphone, for instance, could guide the shopping and restaurant recommendations you get on your Mapquest directions. Or identify causes on your way to the mall that need something you could buy and drop off on your way home.

Mobile payments and location belong together. And cause marketing belongs with both of them.

Cause Marketing in the 'Hood: Starbucks, Whole Foods

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In my travels this past weekend, I came across two cause marketing programs at two stores my family frequents a lot. The first was at Starbucks where I saw a display for the new Conservation International Starbucks Card. You load the card with dough and every time you spill the beans at Starbucks through the end of the year five cents goes to CI. I like the program, and as a Starbucks customer I admire the coffee behemoth for supporting CI's mission to protect the earth.

One program I missed in Starbucks stores this month, however, was their annual Leprechaun Latte promotion to support Boston-based Jumpstart. This was a simple cause marketing program that rewarded Jumpstart with 25 cents for every green latte sold. I reported in 2006 that the program raised $13,000.

This program was a great example of a giant company doing local cause marketing (Leprechaun Lattes were unique to New England). As a local cause marketer it gave me hope that maybe my little nonprofit could one day work with Starbucks. Now, it looks as if I may need to look for my pot of gold elsewhere.

My second stop this weekend was at Whole Foods, a grocer I've written glowingly on for their passive cause marketing programs. On this trip, however, I was pleasantly accosted by a passionate young cashier named Amanda. She asked me to support the Whole Planet Foundation, a nonprofit started by Whole Foods to help fuel economic development in poor countries, mainly through microfinancing. You could donate a $1 or $5, but if you chose the latter, Whole Foods included a chocolate bar to sweeten the deal!

I really appreciated Amanda's enthusiasm, and she shared how Whole Foods had raised $2 million to help victims from the Haiti earthquake.

Like in the passive cause marketing program I reviewed earlier this year, the signage for this program was right near the credit card machine where everyone could see it. "Empower women through micro-credit" was the call to action for this sophisticated, educated shopper. But, as in every other program I've ever run, the person at the register makes all the difference.

I wish Whole Foods would encourage more of their cashiers to "make the ask."

I wish every store had more cashiers like Amanda!

AMA Presentation: Cause Marketing During Challenging Times

Thanks to everyone who came out to the AMA Boston event on Cause Marketing During Challenging Economic Times. It was a great event. As promised, below are links to some of the topics I discussed.

What is cause marketing. One thing that was clear from everyone on the panel is that Bonnie, Erica Vogelei from Cone and I all had a different understanding of what cause marketing is. Here's my perspective. If you're a cause marketing skeptic you may want to check out my post on Defending Cause Marketing. Be sure to read the comments under both posts as they are very helpful.

The Power of Pinups. My cause marketing efforts revolve around two key areas, point-of-sale and percentage-of-sale, especially the former. For a primer on point-of-sale, or pinups as I like to call them, check out this post, which has lots of links. My last pinup program was with Ocean State Job Lots. But I've also posted on other programs by Hannaford Supermarkets and New Balance.

If you're interested in learning more about percentage-of-sale programs, read this post about Starbucks & Product (RED).

Cause marketing and social media. One of my favorite topics. Be sure to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, etc. on the right sidebar! Here's a good sampling of my posts on the subject. Also, check out my post on Foursquare and Harvard and how the latter can school cause marketers on how to raise money with location-based social media.

This presentation didn't have any slides, but if you're a PowerPoint-aholic check out these slides from an event I spoke at just a couple weeks ago.

Three final things.

First, if you have a question, leave a comment and I'll reply to you. I might even write a post on your question! And you can make sure you never miss a post by subscribing to my email newsletter, which goes out twice a month.

Second, I've posted a whole series on Selling Local Sponsorships for Nonprofits that explores the selling process and how to prospect, pitch and close. It's helpful if you work in nonprofit sales.

Finally, speaking of pitching, let me leave you with one. The team at BMC is available for hire.

Thanks again for listening. I hope my accent wasn't too thick (a problem sometimes even for a Boston crowd!).

Can Companies Use Cause-Related Marketing to Help Haiti?

I think they can, but it needs to be done appropriately and with sensitivity. As we learned in my post What is Cause Marketing? cause marketing isn't philanthropy first, it's marketing. And the situation in Haiti requires philanthropy first. And any company that tries to swap that with marketing will be duly punished by consumers.

But just because the recipe calls for a pound of philanthropy doesn't mean there isn't room for a teaspoon of cause-related marketing.

Here's how it can be added to the mix without ruining the batter.

A lot of companies have already struck the right chord with philanthropy by donating millions to the Haiti earthquake victims. Let's use Startbucks as the example, which has donated $1M to the American Red Cross.

Additionally, some companies, like Starbucks, have carved out areas within their stores where customers can make donations to Haiti.

But how could these companies add cause marketing?

Again, as you know from my earlier post, I view cause marketing in three tactical ways: point-of-sale, percentage-of-sale, licensing.

For Haiti, I think point-of-sale might be perceived as too aggressive and opportunistic. Conversely, licensing is a tactic that couldn't be rolled out fast enough to meet the urgent needs of the victims.

Neither will work to help Haiti or the favorability of the company that executes the program.

However, I think percentage-of-sale could work. The Starbucks/Product RED partnership is a model. During the month of December, Starbucks donated five cents for every coffee sold to fight AIDS in Africa. The same could be done for Haiti at Starbucks and at other retailers.

But here's what every consumer would need to know. Regardless of whether you buy the product or not, the company would donate X dollars, a generous minimum donation, to Haiti. A donation that could go up significantly with the small purchasing choices customers make every day.

I like this option because it's built off of two solid layers of philanthropy, and a good portion of the percentage-of-sale donation comes from the company, not from the consumer's purchase. Nevertheless, the program gives the consumer a chance to literally register their support for Haiti and to note the company's efforts.

I read this post to my wife and she said my idea still sounds like a marketing ploy. Maybe cause marketing has no place in helping Haiti.

What do you think?

For Holidays Starbucks, Critics See (RED) & Green

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I love Starbucks. I love Product (RED). I love cause marketing. If you have a problem with any of these you should probably leave now.

Through December 1st when customers spend $15 on any purchase Starbucks will automatically make a $1 donation to The Global Fund on their behalf. Customers also get a copy of the exclusive All You Need Is Love Holiday CD for free.

But that's not all.

On December 1st, Starbucks will commemorate World AIDS Day by donating 5 cents from every beverage sold that day as well as $1 from every Starbucks (RED) product purchased in stores.

To date Starbucks has generated contributions equaling more than 5 million daily doses of antiretroviral medicine through the purchase of Starbucks/(RED) products.

But no good deed goes unpunished.

A recent Nonprofit Times article titled Product (RED)'s Impact is Shrouded in Vague Answers frowns on (RED) partners like Gap and Starbucks that don't report sales related to (RED).

But the Times also reports the points I often make on (RED). The cause marketing business model it's created with companies like Starbucks is....

  • ...the best way to raise money with businesses, especially retailers, because it engages the most powerful and lucrative force they have: its customers.  In short, despite what most people think, the real money in corporate philanthropy is not in the company checkbook. It's in the customer's pocketbook.
  • ...an incredibly successful way to build a philanthropic brand. Think about it. Critics complain that (RED) partners have spent tens of millions of dollar on marketing (RED)--like they wouldn't have spent it on something besides philanthropy anyway. But what they don't concede is that in just a few short years (RED)'s philanthropic brand has risen to a level that it's taken others--St. Jude, Unicef, MDA, Komen--decades to achieve. And (RED) owes that to star-power and an impressive ability to harness the corporate marketing machine.

A lot of nonprofits ask me what area they can work on to be more successful in cause marketing. Three things, I tell them: brand, brand, brand.

It's a lesson Product (RED) drilled on right from the beginning, and to-date has $135 million as proof that in the school of corporate philanthropy they are a top student.