Cause Marketing with QR Codes. Did Chili's and St. Jude Miss the Mark?

This is a guest post from Bob Jones of For an overview of their service check out my post There She Blows! Cause Marketing, Mobile Gifts Surface with You've probably heard about the successful partnership between Chili’s Grill & Bar and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. This longstanding cause marketing pact has raised tens of millions of dollars with its Create-A-Pepper to Fight Childhood Cancer campaign.

This year alone the campaign raised $5 million.

A new feature of this year's campaign was a QR code on coloring sheets and table tents that took smartphone toting patrons to an information and donation page.  Including a QR code on a major campaign such as this one is impressive enough, but here's the real news: patrons scanned the QR code a whopping 291,000 times!

Critics of QR codes take note: consumers know what QR codes are and how to access their online content.

“By incorporating the QR codes into this charitable campaign, it was a great way to relate to Chili’s tech-savvy guests while giving St. Jude supporters another, easily accessible way to donate to the charity,” said Chili’s spokeswoman Julie Flowers.

While I admire the partnership and the creativity of including a QR code, Chili's and St. Jude missed the mark on maximizing donations.

When scanned, the QR code took the user to this page.


Click on "3 Donate Online to Make a Difference" and you go to this page.

The missed opportunity is obvious. This is where the user hits a wall. Would you want fill in all these boxes on your phone?  The giving opportunity is DOA. 291,000 scans, but I bet you could count the number of donations made on this page with your hands and toes.

There's a better solution: Give.Mobi.

The donor can easily make a gift with PayPal, credit or debit card or a simple pledge option. In each case, you can make a donation in seconds because delivers a mobile experience that closes the gift. You also get real-time tracking of every donation by location so you can keep tabs on which restaurants are leading the pack, or lagging.

QR codes for cause marketing are a great idea. But without a mobile-ready donation page to make giving easy, potential donors will navigate their giving elsewhere.

There She Blows! Cause Marketing, Mobile Gifts Surface with

I've talked a lot about the coming of mobile payments and their intersection with cause marketing on both my blog and at speaking appearances. It's something I'm really excited about. But up to now there hadn't been any sign in the water of this huge beast that would change giving and cause marketing with the same force The Whale shook Captain Ahab on the Pequod.

But the waters are parting and I see something rising:

Developed by Tulsa, Oklahoma based CharityCall, may be the best option yet for businesses and nonprofits that want to partner and raise money via mobile technology.

Here's how works.

1. Shoppers scan a QR code which takes them to a custom giving page. The QR code can appear anywhere: on a register sign or product, in a sales flier, etc. Check out this QR code appeal from Cinnabon bakeries.

2. The first page highlights the details of the program, in Cinnabon's case a fundraiser for anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength. Users can also easily share the campaign with friends on Twitter and Facebook.

3. Click on "Give Now" to visit the donation page. An advantage here is that you can contribute more than you could with the $5 and $10 donations common to text giving. Not sold on donating on your phone? You can make a "pledge" by entering an amount and email address so you can receive a link to donate via PayPal, credit or debit card.

4. Once you enter a gift amount and click on "Give Now" you'll be asked to sign-in to your Paypal account and make a gift. Of course, the process isn't as easy if you don't have a PayPal account. isn't free. There's a $75 set-up fee, $39 monthly fee and the company gets 5% of collected donations. You'll also have to pay PayPal 2.2% on donations plus 30 cents per transaction. You're basically paying around a buck for every ten dollars you raise. I can live with that.

Does this new mobile platform work? I was impressed that Cinnabon raised $3,800 for Share Our Strength in just five days. That's pretty good for a passive cause marketing program. The average donation was $43 and the average cost per donation was $3.40.

Cinnabon president Kat Cole is a believer: "The ability to reach out and allow patrons to donate using their mobile smartphones made a big difference." is the best option right now for mobile cause marketing. You should give it a try. Bur remember: will have plenty of competition in 2012 as other mobile giving platforms are rolled out.  Mobile is the future, the future of cause marketing and perhaps the future of giving.

But that doesn't mean the right platform is right around the corner or will always be smooth sailing.

Like the legends of white whales that inspired Melville to write Moby Dick, we'll have to chase down each new mobile development for fundraisers to see if it's for real or a fake. But Cinnabon's success with Share Our Strength proves that is not just another fish story.