Key Takeaways from the 2012 Cause Marketing Forum Conference – Article 1 of 4

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Key Takeaways from the 2012 Cause Marketing Forum Conference – Article 1 of 4

Inspiration, Dedication, a Reality Check and a Sense of Humor
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We're posting our Incite team members' key takeaways from the 2012 Cause Marketing Forum Conference. 1 of 4 #CMF12

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The Perfect Pitch session at the Cause Marketing Forum 2012 Conference

Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 5:40pm

Inspiration, Dedication, a Reality Check and a Sense of Humor

Having had the past week to ruminate on the 10th Annual Cause Marketing Forum conference (as well as dig out of my inbox from my extended time spent in the fine city of Chicago), I have finally had a chance to put some thoughts to paper (or word press as it goes).

First and foremost, a big salute and kudos to David Hessekeil and Megan Strand for their tireless efforts to bring together such a diverse group of Cause Marketers and for providing meaningful content for all of us.  Content that I found inspirational at times, daunting at others and downright hilarious when it came to the Lighter Side of Cause Marketing presented by Joe Waters highlighting endangered hip hop honeybees, accidentally vacuumed-up gerbils and potty-ing shelter puppies testing out laminated floors.


I truly appreciate the approach P&G takes when they discuss and define their products and brands. Their philosophy was clearly articulated by Melanie Healey, their Group President for North America during her keynote speech. Simply stated, P&G has a defined mission: “P&G is in the business of helping moms.” Now the most cynical of us might say, “No it’s not.  P&G is in the business of selling soaps, cleaning products… and diapers.”  But when P&G operates only out of that mission statement, “P&G is in the business of helping moms” so much more is possible.  They have defined an ethos out of which to work and in doing so they appeal to the hearts of their customers.

Let’s look at their “Thank You, Mom” campaign for the 2010 Winter Olympics.  Their tagline was, “P&G, proud sponsor of Moms,” exploring the premise that behind every successful athlete was a determined and supportive mother.  This in and of itself was a very successful campaign, but they took it to the next level of emotional appeal when they extended the campaign to mothers of Special Olympians. These mothers were even more determined and supportive of their Olympians, and “fought for their children to have dignity, respect, acceptance, and a chance to reach one’s potential.”  My guess is that could not be a more universal primal belief of mothers everywhere… and there was not one dry eye in the house when they played this commercial, “What I See” narrated by Kerry Hincka, the mother of Special Olympics athlete, Molly Hincka.      

Some might say, “well that’s great to tug at the heart strings, but was it successful from a marketing perspective?”  Well, Ms. Healey presented these figures for results:

  • 300 Athletes sent to World Games
  • 200,000 Facebook Fans
  • 85,000 YouTube views of “What I See” (now nearly 150,000 as of this writing)
  • $1 Million + Special Olympics Donations
  • Increase in P&G Sales

So, yeah, I guess you could say cause marketing done well, works.


At first, I wanted to put the P&G/UNICEF campaign “1 Package = 1 Vaccine” in the inspiration category.  I mean, eradicating the deadly Newborn Tetanus disease from two countries and working on more while raising over $40 million to purchase the vaccines to accomplish this is pretty inspiring.  But when Nada Dugas of Procter & Gamble, and Professor Linda Scott of Oxford University provided CMF conference attendees detailed statistics and insights into what it took to pull off this campaign – well, that daunting feeling took over.

Let’s face it P&G is the gorilla in the room when it comes to marketing.  They spend $2.5B (that’s right, with a “B”) a year in marketing. You would have to think that if they decide to do something in the cause marketing world, they’re going to do it big and have the marketing muscle and budgets to pull it off.  Well that almost wasn’t the case with the “1 Package = 1 Vaccine” campaign.

When the Q&A session started after all the great numbers and stats were posted – I had to ask the question, “this is such an easy to understand concept for the consumer but to understand the scale, how much does one vaccine cost?”

The answer was seven cents. But what was more interesting was that the initial estimate was five cents.  And when P&G was informed of the 40% increase, they just about shut down the whole operation.  This discrepancy of the cost estimate was only one of the very real challenges that companies and nonprofits face when striking partnerships.  Ms. Dugas and Ms. Scott further elaborated on fundamental issues such as:

  • Different origins, orientation of the partners
    • P&G and UNICEF have very different mission statements and goals
  • Organizational structure and emphasis
  • Centralization versus federation
    • P&G is a very centralized organization with clear hierarchies established and communication protocols.  UNICEF operates in over 150 countries with diverse leadership in multiple regions
  • Timing incompatibility
    • P&G wanted to adhere to deadlines that UNICEF might not be able to accommodate.  How can you return phone calls by 5pm if all your workers are in a broken down bus in the middle of nowhere?
  • Degrees of funding certainty
  • Public/donor accountability 

By the time Ms. Dugas and Ms. Scott finished, everyone in the room clearly understood that this incredible campaign took incredible focus, resources, effort and was not for the faint of heart.  This partnership truly demonstrated that even with large budgets and cause/corporate alignment, the effort to pull off meaningful and effective cause marketing campaigns is never easy.

Reality Check

So what are well meaning cause marketers to do?  Or small nonprofits without the dollars or reach of a P&G supporting them in their endeavors?  First off, be creative.  Second – use a sense of humor… and lastly, know where to look for help. While the campaigns I highlighted above are, in my opinion, very effective and emotionally appealing, any company or nonprofit can be just as effective if they tell their story with passion and relate to the audiences they are trying to reach.  Our Incite founder, Sarah Harris, spoke during the Six Big Ideas in Sixty Minutes session highlighting how media companies can help.  It is our business to know our audiences and how to reach them effectively.  If your cause aligns with the core beliefs of our listeners, then we’re going to be a very interested, very invested partner.  When you add the right company with their aligned customers you have the makings of a new Cause Marketing Triangle that can Engage People, Inspire Belief and Incite Change… one person, one campaign at a time. To read more on that, look for our upcoming white paper on the subject.


Nick Cavarra
+1 (818) 238-6630
Incite - Social Impact Marketing