Wednesday, June 17, 2009

In defense of Cause Marketing

If you haven’t read or responded yet, check-out the great dialogue and debate at Joe Water’s Selfish Giving cause marketing blog around his post “Defending Cause Marketing.” Joe, the Director of Cause Marketing for non-profit Boston Medical Center and a noted cause marketer, takes on a provocative article from Professor Angela Eikenberry for the Stanford Social Innovation Review entitled The Hidden Costs of Cause Marketing and argues that cause marketing is merely “consumption philanthropy.”

I love three things about this debate: 1. that Professor Eikenberry wasn’t afraid to take a stand; 2. that there’s an ardent army of cause marketing supporters that were quick to disagree and debunk some of the opinions cited; 3. most of all that Eikenberry continued a dialogue with all of us.

You can view my contribution to the debate here but my main argument was around the insinuation that cause marketing cannibalizes philanthropy or charity. This goes against all we know about American human nature. Companies and individuals will either do both cause marketing and philanthropy/charity – or just cause marketing because there’s something in return (incremental sales, brand halo, product or service bought). But these are not competing for the same share of "giving wallet." Said another way, typically cause marketing is not chosen over philanthropy, it’s chosen as the only way people or brands want or can participate in social change. And isn't that better than nothing? Let us know what you think by commenting here or on Joe's blog.


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