Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Authority On Cause Marketing: People Magazine

My look into the Zeitgeist or "spirit of the times" comes every Friday in the mail. Oh there's no shortage of ways to check what's in our collective head and heart. Music, book and film charts. TV ratings complete with analysis that would make Dr. Phil proud. Countless news surveys ("no wait ours IS different...) that promise a glimpse into people's minds. Even Google offers a set of tools updated in real-time called appropriately Zeitgeist that reveals this spirit by grouping and displaying what people search for – perhaps literally and figuratively.

But my wife's weekly edition of People magazine is a great and far more fun way for me to get a grasp on the cultural context. (Yes I read it cover to cover but you see for marketing research purposes only.) With stories that ranges from inspirational stories of courage to [insert celeb A here] breaks up with [insert celeb B here]. And from ubiquitous diet tips to last year's Heroes Among Us profile article series. And finally the ads. Yes the ads to me provide a most intriguing and telling view on our world and what approaches and messages resonate. As the longtime most read magazine you can be sure that if a brand has paid the top price to run in this magazine they've done their homework.

Since my passion for cause marketing began a couple of years ago I've been flipping the pages with great interest to see how many and what cause marketing ads or stories will appear. Many times there's a non-profit org's PSA ad. And at least several for-profit brands run cause marketing campaign ads. This past week's issue featured a cover story of Pilot Sully Sullenberger's account of safely landing 1549 and several notable cause related ads:

Subway Fresh Fit For Kids 

Subway is a savvy veteran with it's "better for you" heads-on competitive positioning vs. greasy and fatty fast-food. It's latest installment goes right where many of us feel it most: our kids. An alignment with great halo effect from American Heart Association for their Fresh Fit for Kids combo meal.

Diet Coke With The Heart Truth

Next up is a multi-page ad from Diet Coke featuring Heidi Klum and others in little red dresses. Oh yeah and it's in partnership with The Heart Truth. Feels borderline cause-washing to me given the stretch of carbonated soft drinks and health but hey if cause marketing was only employed by perfect brands with perfect products there wouldn't be any, to the detriment of important social issues. It definitely got my attention though clearly I'm not the target. But I also left wondering who is Heart Truth and doesn't the little red dress icon belong to American Heart Association's Go Red for Women cause campaign that I've seen the last few years?

Burt's Bees All Natural Lip Balm

Then it's cult phenom Burt's Bees lip balm. A great garage start-up brand story that has achieved wild success with naturally made ingredients. Complete with certification/endorsement from Natural Products Association (never heard of it but sure sounds good) it highlights what's in their product vs. the leading competition. Given the brand's positioning around "well being" this fits my broader definition of cause marketing: any idea that makes a business and social impact. Of course as some know, the brand was sold to The Clorox Company and now does a careful dance as a "boutique brand" along with negative perceptions around sister company's Clorox's chemical-based home cleaning products (more on that later).

Capri Sun Terracycle Program

In my opinion the best cause marketing ad in the issue comes from Capri Sun who leverages the "guilty mom" mindset and tells her how she can really do it all - take care of her kid's basic needs plus raise money for their school and help environment by recycling the pouches into school gear. And all without a huge cost or time investment.

Greenworks New Biodegradable Wipes

The final ad is for a new product in the mega-hit Green Works line: biodegradable wipes. The parent company, just like Bert's Bees discussed above, is The Clorox Company who wisely and by most accounts credibly has created the Green Works brand extension and validated the all-natural cleaning products category pioneered by Seventh Generation and others. The most controversy coming from it's alignment with the Sierra Club - the first such endorsement ever given by the preeminent environmental non-profit. But it wasn't from the critics or even the public but from a vocal minority within The Sierra Club itself. (In full disclosure Green Works/Clorox is a client of the agency I work for and the agency was involved with this program. However they did not create this ad. And I personally have no involvement with this client nor their marketing).


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