Pillar #2 of the 6 Pillars of Effective Cause Marketing - Find Your Voice

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Pillar #2 of the 6 Pillars of Effective Cause Marketing - Find Your Voice

The second in a series of six posts discussing effective cause marketing principals
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At Incite, we believe the most effective cause marketing campaigns are crafted with careful consideration of a company’s consumers, employees and key partners. Here in a series of six blog posts, we demonstrate the importance of understanding the causes and issues that are relevant to these stakeholder groups and present six critical pillars for developing effective cause marketing campaigns.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - 10:00am

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Pillar #2 - Find Your Voice

Just as important as choosing the who – a cause partner that is the “right fit for your company” – is the how you communicate the corresponding messaging to reflect your brand and your consumers. After researching and understanding the issues that affect your consumers’ lives, position your business’ cause partnership in a way that is consistent and relatable. Ensure your cause marketing efforts reflect the tone and voice of your overall brand and the messages are shared with your consumers in a way they like to receive information.

When a campaign truly finds the right voice, it will resonate with its target audience and inspire them to take action. However, striking the wrong chord with an audience will not only fail to engage them, it may very well propel them to speak out against your cause and company with cries of “greenwashing,” “pinkwashing,” or simply, “what were you thinking? – we can see right through this campaign and are disappointed that you don’t respect our consumer voice.”

PILLAR TWO SHOWDOWN - Apple’s (Product) RED campaign vs. Chevron’s “We Agree” Campaign

(PRODUCT) RED & APPLE - Cause Marketing Concept: Purchase designated (RED)™ products (i.e. Apple iPods), and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to funding HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs in Africa.

The Global Fund, the recipient of (RED) funds, is the world’s leading financer of programs to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria. Created in 2002, the Global Fund has committed $22.4 billion to lifesaving programs in 150 countries. Programs supported by the Global Fund have averted 7.7 million deaths worldwide by providing AIDS treatment for 3.2 million people, TB treatment for 8.2 million people and 190 million insecticide treated bed nets to help prevent Malaria worldwide.

The Global Fund invests 100% of (RED) dollars in HIV/AIDS programs in Africa, including interventions targeting women and children. The primary stated goal of the (RED) initiative is to have a world, by 2015, where virtually no child is born with HIV. (Source: (Product) RED)

In partnership with the (RED) effort, Apple Inc. has released five generations of special edition iPod Nano devices and the iPod Shuffle with a (Product) RED theme, as well as a (RED) $25 iTunes Gift Card and iPhone protective case. Apple has also announced a (Product) RED branded Smart Cover for the iPad 2.

Initially, Apple dedicated $10 of each purchased (Product) RED iPod to the (RED) effort. Recently, it has adjusted its donation position. According to the (Product) RED website, the purchase of one iPod Nano (Product) RED device can provide over three weeks of lifesaving medicine to someone living with HIV in Africa.

The Score Card: Apple has tailored the perfect voice to align with the cause – a voice that coincides with how it already speaks to its consumers. Apple positions itself as a global technology company that leverages the power of its hardware, software and internet offerings to connect people. The Global Fund is also focused on connecting those in need with the resources necessary to address their health-related issues. In addition, the Global Funds’ vision, a world where no child is born with HIV, is similar to the vision Steve Jobs set for Apple years ago, “an Apple on every desk.” Apple has chosen to align with another global brand that is similarly focused on a better tomorrow.

Adding to Apple’s success is the fact that (RED) has also aligned itself with artists like U2’s Bono who have a longtime legacy of promoting and supporting AIDS prevention and other causes. Partnering with innovative, hip and cool companies like Apple, Nike and Starbucks also contributes to the (RED) success. These partnerships position the campaign as a trendy way to contribute to the mission of (RED); a mission shared by all partners. This shared purpose and voice is a key element of any successful cause marketing campaign.

Chevron’s “We Agree” Campaign – Cause Marketing Concept: In contrast to a more traditional cause marketing campaign where a nonprofit or cause benefits from donations or a percentage of product sales, Chevron’s “We Agree” campaign is an attempt to promote and distinguish programs Chevron supports in various communities.

Chevron deploys its “We Agree” campaign in an attempt to earn credit for their community-based initiatives to make consumers feel that Chevron cares and is giving back. While it is true that, via the programs they promote, Chevron is certainly doing good things in the communities they serve, Chevron also faces public outcry and backlash for many of the negative environmental issues they cause due to the day-to-day operations of an oil company.

This campaign has an image problem. Chevron is attempting to position itself as a friend of our communities by only promoting itself as an altruistic company. But this voice and position does not sit well with consumers due to the recent environmental calamities and catastrophes caused by Chevron and many of its oil company brethren (i.e. a recent court ruling awarding $8.64 billion to Ecuadorian residents of the Amazon who had sued Chevron for years of crude oil pollution, as well as the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico).

Chevron’s campaign also comes across as “tooting its own horn” as opposed to championing and altruistically supporting a like-minded nonprofit or charity. This approach is a failed attempt to parade a crisis communications and public relations campaign as a cause marketing campaign.

The Score Card: Clearly this campaign’s intention is to try and separate Chevron from their competitors and alleviate Chevron’s guilt by association. But, in our opinion, the “good corporate citizen” position they have tried to adopt cannot shake a cynical reaction. Most of the public will likely react the same way as the activist group, The Yes Men. This entity has teamed with the Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch to erect a fake website that suggests Chevron should agree that oil companies should “fix the problems they create” and “clean up their messes.” 


Nick Cavarra
+1 (818) 238-6630
Incite - Social Impact Marketing
Keywords: (PRODUCT) RED | 6 Pillars of Effective Cause Marketing | Events, Media & Communications | Apple | Cause Marketing | Chevron We Argree | Events, Media & Communications | Incite - Social Impact Marketing

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