We're All Cause Marketers Now

On Monday The New York Times profiled a new cause marketing effort from a maker of healthy snacks and do-gooder Daniel Lubetzky, who owns Kind Healthy Snacks. Lubetzky has a small problem. Some of his competitors, including Snickers Bars from confection giant Mars Incorporated, are also using cause marketing to sell their own snack lines.

The Times reporter, Stuart Elliott, never puts it this directly but the logical question is inescapable. If you're a consumer-facing company with a commitment to cause marketing is it a good thing if your competitors are utilizing cause marketing, too?

All of us who have been involved in cause marketing for more than a decade or so remember that one of our primary sales points to prospects was that cause marketing helps you distinguish your product or service from competitors and gives you a new story to tell customers and the press.

Increasingly that advantage is disappearing.

(The result is a lament like the Gotterdammerung some Americans feel about China’s economic surge over the last two and a half decades. But my response is; the China of 2010 is infinitely better than the China of 1976 (the year Mao died). Certainly China and the Chinese citizenry are better off. On a net level, so too is the United States and the other western democracies.)

Bear in mind that cause marketing still has other advantages:
  • It can directly enhance sales and branding.
  • It can heighten customer loyalty.
  • It can help build employee morale and loyalty.
  • It can help improve employee profitability, skills and teamwork.
  • It can help employee recruiting and retention and build a pipeline of talent.
More cause marketing helps more nonprofits. And the money causes get from cause marketing is more valuable than the money they get from almost any other source because it comes without strings attached.

Would Daniel Lubetzky prefer that Snickers wasn’t doing its cause marketing campaign? Probably.

But the cause marketing genie’s out of the bottle, folks. And we're all cause marketers now.
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