Cause Marketing is Perfect for a Bloody Massacre


It's March 5th and you know what that means: it's Boston Massacre Day! Back in 1770, British soldiers fired into a crowd of colonists, killing five. The propaganda following the "Bloody Massacre" was intense, and included a famous engraving by Paul Revere. Many believe that the massacre was an important tipping point in sparking the American Revolution. I'll let you debate that point among yourselves.

To celebrate the day, I dug out this classic post from the Selfish Giving archives. It goes all the way back to 2006, but has some great points that are relevant today. It also has some crazy references, like to the Zune. Remember that one?

Well, enjoy. And celebrate the day by calling anyone dressed in red "A dirty lobster back" and then throw dirt and snow at them! Just like they did back in 1770... Just make sure the person you're insulting doesn't have a musket!


The June issue of Boston Magazine has an interesting article on how local historical sites in Mass. are "ripping a page out of the corporate sales manual, the one that reads, 'Repackage.  Rebrand.  Give it a kick.  Make it sell.'" to boost tourism.

Take the Freedom Trail Foundation, which oversees the red-brick line (painted with the blood of Yankee fans) that leads three million tourists a year past 16 shrines from the American Revolution, including the Old South Meeting House, the site of the Boston Massacre and the Bunker Hill Monument.

The marketing campaign the FTF launched this year mentions six popular TV shows, including American Idol and CSI.  It also runs a popular pub crawl of historical taverns.  And to keep up with techno-savvy kids and their Blackberry-toting parents, visitors can download a Freedom Trail audio tour to their MP3 players.

The tourism industry calls this "edu-tainment", but I'm wondering where's the philanthro-tainment.  The Freedom Trail Foundation would make a great cause marketing partner.  The 16 stops on the trail attract lots of families--a key demo for many companies--and are in or near shopping districts.  The FTF should leverage these two key assets.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Give tourists a map of the Freedom Trail that highlights the different shops and eateries along the route.  The FTF could sell advertising on the map, but giving it away to retailers would be even smarter.  Let me explain.
  • In exchange for promotion on the map, ask shops and restaurants along the route to sell a coupon book to customers for between $1 to $3 that offers savings on everything from admission to Paul Revere's House to a sandwich at Cosi.  Make sure shoppers know that the money will go to the FTF to support the upkeep of the trail.
  • Give away a Tourist Pack with sample-size sunscreen, band-aids, hand-sanitizer, musket powder, snuff, etc.  Sell Valpak like inserts for the pack (if Valpak can make $3,200 per ad, why shouldn't you?).  Repeat quarterly.
  • Let tourists swap their gold fillings for wooden teeth, implanted by a "living historian" with period dental instruments (i.e. an anvil and a dirty rag).  Potential sponsor: Gentle Dental.
  • Get the latest and coolest electronic products (like the new Zune or GPS system) for tourists to try--in an historically-apporpriate way, of course--at different stops along the route.  Aggressively market the Freedom Trail to manufacturers and retailers that want to test market and promote new products to the four-eyed, four-legged monster (a.k.a. Mothers with kids).
  • Capture the spirit of the Revolution with a tax-free shopping day during the holiday season that includes a raffle to win a trip to the "Old World" (I was thinking England, but Quincy would be fine too).  The FTF gets five percent of sales from the shopping day.  The raffle winner is announced at the December 17th reenactment of the Boston Tea Party.  The losing raffle tickets--with their owners--go overboard with the tea.
  • Do a spin-off of the hit TV show The Amazing Race called "Amazing History" that challenges teams to perform "revolutionary" feats of strength, endurance and intelligence (like loading and firing three musket shots in less than a minute, or extinguishing a burning dress (the leading cause of death for colonial women after childbirth).  Encourage businesses to compete against each other for bragging rights and to raise money for the Foundation (and for burn victims).
  • Recruit a local funeral home to sponsor a "dig" at the Granary Burying Ground.  Outfit the bones you find in period dress and have puppet shows for terror-stricken school groups.

Okay, some of these ideas are better than others.  But the point is that the FTF and others need to approach cause marketing the Revolution with the same ingenuity, courage, tenacity and, yes, self-interest that the founders did in starting it.  In cause marketing the Revolution, "The shot heard 'round the world" has yet to be fired.

Tis the Season for Unselfish Giving

ks A goal of mine this holiday season is to teach my kids more about generosity. You may think that since I write a cause blog I must have that area covered. But the blog is called Selfish Giving for a reason.

The whole idea of true generosity is really kind of alien to me as I constantly focus on win-win partnerships. I live in a tit for tat world. I want to give my kids exposure to an unselfish world so they can see both sides. I owe them that much.

I've been thinking about this a lot since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday. I would do anything for the families of those poor kids. I've already donated a little money, and thanks to the urging of Ifdy Perez at, I've created a fundraising page for the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary.

So far we've raised over over $1,000. It felt good to give and help without interest or motive.

To educate my two kids, Cate and Ryan, on generosity, my wife and I have decided to do a few things over the next couple of weeks.

  1. We're giving each of them a Razoo giving card for Christmas and will let them research and pick a cause to support. I also want to talk with them about other ways they can help their chosen cause beyond giving money.
  2. As a fun family project, we plan to participate in this fun fundraiser from Luckie + Company. We all love the movie Elf and Luckie is donating $25 for every scene you reenact and post to Instagram. The kids are already working on their Buddy the Elf hat and we plan to have some fun with it!
  3. Over the next few weeks, we plan to donate our time at an area nonprofit. I'm thinking a good one would be Cradle to Crayons. This Boston-based organization provides kids 0-12 with all the things they need to live and play. Shifts in their warehouse are just two hours long and they can put anyone age 5 or older to work! C2C is taking a much deserved break over the holidays so I may need to explore other options if I want to get this in before the end of the year. 

What are you doing to educate your kids about generosity? Razoo got wind of my post and was nice enough to give me a couple of $50 giving cards so leave a comment below, or use the hashtag #unselfishgiving on social media. Maybe I can help you with your own experiment! 

Forget #GivingTuesday. Want to Save the World? Send a Tweet

Next month marks my fifth anniversary on Twitter. I feel like I owe a lot to the humble tweet. It's helped me find more readers for my blog. I've learned a lot about social media and cause marketing. I've even made some great friends on Twitter - some of whom I've actually met.

Every tweet calls for words that are clear, direct, active and short. The practice has spilled over into my writing and blogging, to my public speaking and even to my PowerPoint slides.

Not everyone agrees that Twitter is a positive force in modern language. The actor Ralph Fiennes has complained that Twitter has all but ruined language and laments "a world of truncated sentences." Others like Bill Keller have concluded that Twitter makes us forgetful and just sound dumb.

Even if we concede that Bill and Ralph are right - which I don't think they are - the situation outside of Twitter is far, far worse, and is a greater threat to the English language.

Sadly, the people I generally work with, marketing and communication professionals who should be word ninjas, and nonprofits that should be testing the limits of humanizing language, are the worse offenders.

A marketing executive said last week that a company had "differentiated [itself] from the competition and given it an edge to communicating brand values during the holidays and amid a struggling economy.” At 146 characters, this sentence would not have survived the Twitter word grinder. Perhaps a better, clearer alternative is "The business has stood out over the holidays because it did the right thing for people stuck in a terrible job market." [118 characters, a better length for retweeting on Twitter].

Bloated language is similar to highly processed fast foods with their chemicals and miscellaneous animal parts: you can't call it real food. And like our poor food choices, these words don't nourish, feed or fill us. They're empty calories, and leave our readers and listeners unsatisfied.

Thankfully, Twitter is the farmer's market of language. Selection is limited, but everything is home grown and good for you.

Twitter's character limit keeps me focused on what I call Famous Last Words (FLW), the one thing you want your reader to remember more than anything else. It's just one or two sentences and there is little or no room for adjectives. Nouns and verbs do the work. And you have to play with the words to convey your meaning in the limited space. You have to cut, tighten and swap to get it right. 140 characters is a sentence scythe.

You may think that most people don't spend much time fixing their tweets. Think again. Twitter doesn't give you much of a choice.

Try it for yourself. Sign up for a Twitter account, type in a sentence or two as you would in any normal email and hit the send button. It will go nowhere because you're over the character limit. Now go back and edit the tweet so it's fewer than 140 characters but still says something. Congratulations, you have a FLW.

Before you hit the send button, read it one more time. What do you see? Nouns and verbs. Few or no adjectives and adverbs. Words that have Anglo-Saxon, not Latin, origin. Lastly, your tweet reflects your awareness that anyone can read it so you better not sound stupid.

Now you're ready to send a second tweet. Don't worry. You'll improve quickly.

The 19th century American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson said of his writing, "I am a rocket manufacturer." Each of his sentences speaks to the reader independent of the sentence before or aft. Emerson would have been a natural on Twitter.

You probably won't be, as least not to start. But soon you'll be tweeting like a pro and writing and speaking better too. And whether it's marketing a new product, leading a company in difficult times or inspiring people to support a cause, more rocket makers are just what the world needs.

Cause Marketing for Credit Unions

Thanks to everyone who attended my session at the Open Thinking Summit in Aurora, Colorado. It was a pleasure to speak to all of you.

As promised, here are a list of resources that will enhance your learning from yesterday's talk.

What is Cause Marketing

(Re)Defining Cause Marketing. This post will link you to plenty of other useful content.

Benefits of Cause Marketing

2010 Cause Evolution Study. This important study from a leading cause marketing agency in Boston builds a very strong case for cause marketing from just about every angle possible.

Choosing the Right Cause

How to Choose a Cause for Cause Marketing. This post elaborates on what I spoke about and uses the example of Massage Envy and Arthritis Foundation

I also spoke of a very successful program by Menchies Frozen Yogurt to benefit MDA.

Cause Marketing Tactics

Anatomy of a Pinups. Pinups are a basic but effective tactic for getting started with cause marketing.

Facebook, Cause Marketing Boost Small Bank. This article profiles The Bank of Ann Arbor and their Facebook success.

Engage your employees! Check out what the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with BOLT for the BSO.

Today, I talked mostly about Facebook Like promotions. But other platforms can be effective, too. (e.g. Pinterest, Foursquare).

More inspiration for you: The Best Local Cause Marketing of 2011.

For more examples of cause marketing in action, check out my cause marketing boards on Pinterest.

The Mobile Revolution

Three examples to feed your curiosity!

Causes Raise Money from Businesses When Customers Check-in for Good

New Saucony App Makes Running Good

Donate to a Cause When You Pay with Your Smartphone

Looking for more information on cause marketing? Visit the Getting Started section of this blog.

A 12 Step Program for Lighter Cause Marketing

I'm in Chicago today speaking at the 10th Annual Cause Marketing Forum Conference. My topic? The Lighter Side of Cause Marketing. If you're at the conference, join me!

But if you're like most people and reading this post from your home or offices, here's the thumbnail sketch of my speech and my 12 step program to lighten up!

Step 1: Stop Being So Serious

Sarah McLachlan Animal Cruelty Video

Step 2: Seize the Value of Light

Pergo vs. Claws

Step 3: Trust Your Own Sense of Humor

The Hamster

Step 4: Clown Around

Dining in the Dark

Step 5: Stop Acting Like Teresa Giudice

Drunk Valet

Step 6: Act Like a Human Being

Arctic Home Explorer

Step 7: Break a Few Rules

Ricky Gervais, 2012 Golden Globes

Step 8: Stop Exaggerating

No Bleep

Step 9: Point Out Absurdity


Step 10: Know What Makes Others Laugh

Save the Bronx Zoo

Step 11: Poke Fun at Yourself

This Passover You Can Make Miracles

Step 12: Be Funny...Don't Make Fun

2011 Groupon Superbowl Ad

Friends of Georgia State Parks: Taking QR Codes to the Park

I very much enjoyed speaking to your group today! There was a lot of talk and questions afterward about QR codes. Tonight, in researching for my latest book, QR Codes for Dummies, I found this story on how Fort Smith Historic Site in Arkansas is using QR codes! It's a great article that I think you'll find interesting and helpful. Here's the challenge: to get it you need to scan this QR code!

There's a good lesson in this too. While this article is about QR codes, the magazine it was in, CRM, isn't quite up to speed on mobile technology and hasn't optimized its site for The Third Screen. So you might have to squint or expand the post a bit to read it. If you have an iPad or tablet, you should be able to read it easily.

If you don't have one already, the first thing you'll need to do is download a reader to your mobile device.

If you have an Apple device visit the app store and download my favorite reader, QR Reader for iPhone.

If you have an Android device, visit the Android market and download QR Droid.

If you have a Blackberry device, you're in luck! Many BB's already come with QR code readers. Located the MENU key on your device and select SCAN A BARCODE. If your Blackberry doesn't have a scanner, visit the app store and download QR Code Scanner Pro.

All of these readers are FREE!

Stil confused about QR codes? Here's a video that will take you step by step in choosing a QR code reader and and scanning your first code.

Good luck! And, as I said in my presentation, contact me if you have any questions.