Friday, April 23, 2010

Cause Consumer Outlook 2010

iconoculture has released a consumer outlook on cause for 2010. It reflects the growing maturity of the cause marketing discipline and in turn the growing savvyness of consumers.

In short, just "doing something" isn't enough. Real commitment, transparency and trackability, and localization are the emerging trends.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Going from Org to Brand

Wearing multiple hats (ad agency exec, cause marketing consultant, soccer dad) I was honored to guest speak at the national conference of a youth and sports non-profit last week, the U.S. Youth Soccer Association. Here’s the synopsis provided to conference attendees:

Going from Org to Brand
How to articulate and activate
What does your organization really stand for? Do you struggle getting your message out? This session will look at creating a memorable brand and packaging your assets to deliver a consistent message, to both your membership and potential sponsors. Powell has worked with premier nonprofit and corporate brands such as Lance Armstrong Foundation, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Meals on Wheels, Nokia, Dr Pepper, Harrah’s Entertainment, and Pizza Hut. As an advocate of ideas with business and social impact, he is a leading cause marketing consultant and commentator.

Some of my key talking points were that shifting from org to brand means knowing not just who you are but what you’re really about. And how that can help grow your current membership and your prospective partners. It’s tapping into the power of branding to set you up and apart. It’s creating movements through moments. It’s articulating and activating as a brand in way that does more than convey or communicate, it compels.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Do these actions fit the Olympic ideals?

Big sports events like the Super Bowl and NBA All-Star Game are a financial boon to host cities, bringing short term incremental revenue to the area and enabling longer term infrastructure such as roads and buildings that remain for years after the event concludes. Perhaps the most magnified of these examples is the Olympics, Winter or Summer. So I was saddened to read the following from Dallas Morning News columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor as he covers the Olympics from Vancouver,:

“The underground train stations are pristine. Police officers, imported from throughout Canada, seemingly patrol every street corner.

Volunteers wearing powder blue ski vests or jackets answer every question with a smile whether they're providing dinner suggestions or directions.

Vancouver, as beautiful as any city in North America, wants us to see all it has to offer during the 2010 Olympics.

The city does not want us to see the Eastside, about a 15-minute walk east of the exclusive waterfront area and the fashionable shopping district on Robson Street. The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the Games (VANOC) doesn't want us to see the Eastside either.

It doesn't want us to see its homeless. Or its drug addicts. Or its mentally ill.

That's really the problem with any mega event that descends upon a city, whether it's the Olympics or the Super Bowl coming to North Texas next year.

Local governments and organizing groups pour so much money into making the host city look its best that the less fortunate among us get overlooked.

It's unacceptable”

To be fair, the organizers of these massive productions typically do include a philanthropic component to the overall gameplan. These often involve major non-profits and their regional affiliates working with league officials and players to benefit the community in the days leading up to the event. But is it enough given the tremendous windfall generated by the event? And I for one cannot find any cause related or social activities tied to the Olympics. While it’s OK not to go above and beyond, according to this report, the principals involved with the Olympics and Vancouver as host have not lived up to basic levels of decency. Or to their own ideals.

The Olympic ideal is all about the human spirit that crosses all boundaries of race, religion, and politics and allows all to compete on a balanced playing field. The official Olympic creed is as follows: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

We owe it to each other to ensure that the human spirit can thrive, and that everyone can play the game of life on the same balanced field where can they can at least have a shot in the struggle, even if they can’t win.

[read the entire column here ]

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ask Me About Cause Marketing

image by h.koppdelaney used under cc license

This poem reminded me of cause marketing in that our actions and lives speak for themselves. Brands and consumers doing the right thing, and living up to convictions.

William Stafford, “Ask Me”

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

Monday, February 1, 2010


image used under cc by mela sogono

You may have noticed a common thread lately about shifting models and approaches as cause marketing continues to evolve. I wrote a related piece last week “Shift: Business Good to Good Business" then noticed my cause colleague Scott Henderson and friends had launched a likeminded blog called CauseShift. So with that kindred spirit I had the pleasure to guest post with a piece on applying a new cause related marketing approach to the devastating situation in Haiti.

What if we could bridle the millennial passion for service and match with the burdensome need in Haiti? What if colleges, students, companies, and Haitian relief organizations partnered for a special “Haitian Helping Hand” service opportunity this summer?

Read the post at CauseShift.

How many times have you read an article, sat in a meeting, had a conversation, or watched a program and said, “Wow, what if...?" It’s the shift from passively receiving information and actively engaging with potential implications and applications. It’s adding value. And in that vein I’ve started hashtag #whatifwed and this and every Wednesday invite you to join me on twitter in ideating on the fly. Who knows, what if we generate a big idea that shifts everything?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Shift: Business Good to Good Business / CC BY 2.0

As I've previously written, cause marketing must continue to evolve, and in 2010 that will include a significant shift in what's deemed good enough.

Increasingly its less about a "feel good" act by business to stand out through an emotive appeal, and more of an act of "good business" that's an inherent component of making a business and social impact. And to appease the growing expectations of an informed citizen consumer. The difference? For example, splashy but thin social responsibility announcements vs. a top-down sustainability strategy that meets the needs of the three P's of profit, people, planet. Or a vague transactional model of portion of proceeds will benefit... vs. a long term commitment to a cause and a strategic alliance with a related non-profit that cuts across all facets of the brand and it's marketing.

And guess what, with increased transparency requirements, it means consumers aren't passively smiling at what you do but actively engaged to vet it's merits and talk to others about it. The opportunity of course is to empower and amplify these citizen consumers with authentic cause marketing efforts. To wit, from a recent Iconoculture "Big Ideas / Trends" webinar:

Big Idea 4: Not Gonna Take It — To put it simply, people have some edge to their attitudes. But in 2010, that won’t mean futile stewing. Citizen-consumers are feeling empowered to tap the crowd for power and change. concurs:

GENERATION G (for Generosity) isn't about anger and recessions...Challenging times see people craving care, empathy, sympathy and generosity. Expect to hear even more about caring, as that’s what consumers and citizens will demand from governments and organizations: someone to take care of their jobs, their savings, their fellow citizens.

So how are you shifting to a cause model that's more ingrained in the brand's DNA and less a topical sunscreen?