Making People Cry Isn't a Good Nonprofit Mobile Strategy

I write a lot about the important role emotion plays in cause marketing. If you don't lead with emotion, you're toast. I also talk a lot about mobile technology, which will be a key driver of cause marketing in the years ahead. But here's the rub: emotion and smartphones may not be a good mix.

That's my conclusion after reading a post by Mediapost's Steve Smith on research by A .K. Pradeep, founder and CEO of Nielsen NeuroFocus, on the connection between brainwave analysis and ad response. I won't repeat what Steve has done a fine job of summarizing, but I will share what I like to call his Famous Last Words - that thing we should remember after all else is forgotten.

As screen size decreases so does the viewer's emotional response to what they are watching.

Think about the implications for nonprofit marketing. You've worked hard to create a strong emotional message with your nonprofit videos but on smartphones it will fall on blind eyes.

So, if you can't make people cry on their smartphones, what should your goals be?

Get their attention. Just because you can't engage people emotionally on smartphones, that doesn't mean you can't get their attention. You might need to grab them with something totally unexpected, or emphasize another component such as audio. The background music to a video, among other things, may play a bigger role in getting and keeping a user's attention.

Timing is everything. The impact of emotional messages depends on where and when it's viewed. This makes sense to me. When I had the chance to add a QR Code on a pinup sold at the register I didn't link it to a video on my nonprofit. Who has time to watch a video when you have to lug the groceries out to the car? Instead, I linked it to a question and answer page on the program so people could quickly find out to what they just gave a buck to - a common question/complaint after shoppers donate at the register. But you might be more successful with a video if the QR Code is on a cause product that people can scan after they get home and have the time and inclination for a good cry.

Focus on tablets. Nielson's research shows that some of the emotion lost with smartphones is restored on their big brother, tablets. Nonprofits may want two mobile strategies. One for tablets, the other for smartphones. That latter may require a more practical, utilitarian approach. If sales of Apple's iPad 3 are a good indicator (3 million sold in 3 days compared to the 80 days it took the first iPad to sell 3 million units) the word mobile, at least for nonprofits, should mean tablet.

Of course, Nielsen's research isn't the final word on emotion and mobile technology. A lot depends on what emotion is being engaged .

I'd love to talk about this more, but my 9-year old just sent a video to my phone that he says will make me LMAO. Gotta go.

6-Figure Cause Marketing Grad Uses Pinups, QR Codes to Help Homeless

I love when students put their education to good use. Maggie Keenan, a branding and cause marketing consultant in Savannah, Georgia, is a graduate of my Six Figure Cause Marketing course, which shows nonprofits and businesses how to develop and execute an effective and lucrative cause marketing program.

Maggie gets an A+ for her latest effort: a regional cause marketing program to support the Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless, Inc.Hodges Management Company, which owns the local KFCs, KFC/TacoBells and DQ Grill & Chills, approached the Housing Authority about doing something to help the homeless this holiday season.

Thanks to Maggie, they came up with a great campaign: Dishing Out Meals: Fighting to End Hunger & Homelessness in Our Community.

You can read all about Maggie's outstanding cause marketing program on her blog. But let me take a moment to mention some of the things I really love about it.

It embraces the easiest and most lucrative type of cause marketing: point of sale. The pin-up below sold for a buck. While there are other types of cause marketing Maggie could have recommended to the partners, point of the sale is truly the best, especially for local programs like this one. I've raised as much as $300,000 in just a few weeks with pinups.

It taps every asset the business had for giving. Realizing that the pinup wasn't the best option for drive thru customers, Maggie created a value card with a QR code that takes customers directly to the Homeless Authority website for more information or to make a donation. Great thinking, Maggie! [One suggestion: The mobile donation page isn't optimized for smartphones. Check out what my friend Bob Jones at can do to make this a better experience and raise you more money!]

It battled indifference and apathy from the outset. Have you ever been asked to buy a pinup but the total lack of interest from the cashier convinced you that he or she didn't really care if you did? Hodges Management Company did their best to ensure that apathy and indifference wouldn't be part of this program. All general managers spent a Saturday learning and volunteering for the cause, an experience they'll share with their employees.

I'm proud of everyone involved in this program, and I'm eager to see the results when it's done. Most of all, I'm really proud of Maggie Keenan. She's a great student, asked lots of good questions and kept in touch with me to make sure she didn't make any of the many, many mistakes I made in my first programs.

Congratulations, Maggie! I'm sure this won't be that last post I'll write on one of your successful cause marketing campaigns!

Whole Foods Adopts QR Codes for Cause Marketing

I came across this appeal at my local Whole Foods Market. These types of cause marketing promotions are common at Whole Foods. I call them passive cause marketing because they don't involve an ask from the cashier, unlike active cause marketing.

The signage is strategically placed right where you swipe your credit card.

This is the first time I've seen a QR code at the register at Whole Foods. As I've explained before, QR codes are a good idea. They allow consumers to better connect with the causes they support at the register.

Unfortunately, this QR code is not in a great spot. You see it but you don't have time to act on it! I didn't have time to get my smartphone out and scan the QR code. A better idea would be to include it on the shopper's receipt as well.

Nevertheless, it's good see QR codes expanding their reach. Do you have other examples to share with me?

More Information: Page: 11 - 12, 120 -122, 287 - 288, Cause Marketing for Dummies 

FYI: My wife got the grandinroad/Frontgate catalog and they had a QR code on the back that linked readers to something different, relevant and interesting. Scan it and see for yourself!

Nonprofit Uses QR Code, Quora to Make Cause Marketing More Transparent

Back in January I talked about Quora and how it could be a resource to consumers who had questions about a cause marketing promotions, and an asset to causes that wanted to be more transparent about their programs.

This month my fellow Dummies writer Joanna MacDonald and I are putting Quora to the test with a QR code on our latest pinup that will be sold at iParty and Fuddruckers locations throughout New England.

When consumers scan the code with their smartphones (try it yourself!) it takes them to this Quora page where they can comment or ask a question about the campaign.

We plan to monitor the page regularly so we can answer questions quickly and accurately.

To answer common questions about the program we also included a link to a  frequently asked questions page on Quora.

How many people will scan the QR code? I'm not sure. A small percentage of shoppers most likely. But they may represent regular givers that want more information about the programs they're supporting at the register.

Will Quora be confusing to shoppers that don't know what the heck it is? That's a good question. Probably like 99% of the people out there have no clue what Quora is. But if they view Quora as it tool that gets them the answers they want it might not matter what the name is.

What else can we do to make our Quora page more effective? I think we could include a link to a video on the SPARK Center, the program at my hospital that will benefit from the program.

To make our program easier to find, I also added some tags to the top of the entry, although I really don't expect people to find our page by searching Quora. Most will go to the page directly from the QR code.

Or they may find the page via search engines.

A Google search on "spark center bmc" lists our Quora page as sixth on search results. Queries on other words and terms associated with the promotion also showed up in the top results.  If consumers are searching online for information on this cause marketing program, they'll most likely find it via their favorite search engine thanks to Quora.

That's another good reason to give Quora a try.

I'm interested to hear what you think about this experiment!

Cause Marketing "Meal Deals" Program Raises $87k

The numbers are in from our new "Meal Deals" cause marketing program with iParty, Ocean State Job Lots & Phantom Gourmet and it was a big success. The program raised $87,000.

Proceeds will benefit my hospital's Food Pantry, which last year fed 75,000 people.

You can read all about the details behind the "Meal Deals" program here.

We're excited this program had a great finish, and we're already planning our fall pinup program.

Check out the preliminary design, which includes a QR Code. When shoppers pass their smartphone over the code it will link them to our new Halloween web site. This will give shoppers easy and instant access to online content about the event and our cause.

Would you like to learn how to raise an additional $50,000, $70,000 or more for your nonprofit through cause marketing? The Six Figure Cause Marketing Program returns September 14th.

This three-hour course is a tell-all program on the best practices for ordinary nonprofits to raise real money from cause marketing. Hope to see you there.

Are QR Codes the Next Big Thing for Cause Marketing?

Imagine this: you visit your local supermarket and are asked to support a local food pantry. You a buy a pinup for a buck. On your receipt is message that you can learn more about the cause you just supported by scanning this barcode with your smartphone.

In your car, before you leave the supermarket parking lot, you run your iPhone over the barcode and a one-minute video airs on a food pantry like no other. It's run out of your local hospital. The pantry started by feeding a few thousand patients every year. In 2009 it fed 75,000 men, women and children. The video closes with an image of a food line that snakes down the hallway and around the corner. It is after all the busiest day of the year, the day before Thanksgiving.


The cool thing is that you don't have imagine this happening. It already is. In a recent tweet Conehead Chris Mann pointed me to this article on how two U.K. groups are using barcodes, RFID tags or QR Codes, as they seem to be most commonly called, to add personal history to donated items. (Note: What a great idea for Goodwill!)

Mashable thinks QR codes may be headed for a breakout. Just yesterday, it highlighted Stickybits, an app I've been playing around with for a couple of months.

Stickybits brings context to real-world objects with its next generation approach to the QR code. The mobile app is primarily a barcode scanner — powered by Red Laser — but it takes the technology into the realm of fun by creating a social and shared experience around any item in the physical world that possesses a barcode.

Download the iPhone or Android application, scan your favorite cereal box, add an item — maybe a related recipe, but any video, photo, audio clip or comment will do — and you’ve just started a digital thread around that item.

Think of the potential for cause marketers to make transactional programs less, well, transactional and more meaningful. When you pick up a mug at Starbucks that supports Product (RED) you can scan the QR code to hear the story of a man who benefited directly from the life-saving HIV drugs RED provides and Starbucks funds.

But that's not all. Supporters can scan the barcode and use their smartphone to record why they support Product (RED), which then can be viewed by the next person who holds the mug up to a smartphone.

Consumers scanning QR codes for cause content will not happen overnight. But adopting QR codes encourages cause marketers to do two important things.

  • It helps build a stronger charitable and emotional connection among causes, businesses and consumers. (QR codes should also make cause marketing critics feel better that CM gifts aren't thoughtless one-offs.)
  • It prepares us for the mobile web. The portable technology that Red Laser represents and the type of mobile content it links to is the future for which we should all be preparing. Don't you agree?

What do you think of QR codes? Do they have a place in cause marketing or in fundraising in general? How would you use them in a program?