Another topic we come back to now and then is that of so-called “cause marketing,” whereby companies profess to care about society through various and sundry ill-conceived, often tin-eared promotions.
Here are some of the best of the worst we’ve been saving up (and believe us when we say there are tons more where these came from):
Cars & Trees Go Together Like…?
Earlier this year, the rental car company Enterprise promoted a “50 Million Tree Pledge” to, according to its press release:
“…show Enterprise’s appreciation for its customers by giving back to the community and our country.”
According to a MediaPost article, Enterprise was looking to “make an emotional connection by inspiring current and potential customers to choose Enterprise based on a set of shared values.”
The only emotion this stokes is resignation, as in “We need more trees like we need more cars.”
Ketchup & Trees Go Together Like…?
Not to miss out on a trend, Heinz Ketchup went the tree route also, with its “Join the Growing Movement.” The company promised to plant a tree for every customer who pledged to - seriously – “live a healthy lifestyle.”
But only 57,000 trees, mind you. A growing movement that apparently grows only so far.
Anyway, if there are really any tomatoes in ketchup, none of them grow on trees.
Kids & Trees…Never Mind
Instead of sponsoring trees, which kids used to love to climb, Midwest grocers Spartan Stores, Meijer, and Kroger signed up to support the Pure Michigan FIT program, “a nutrition and fitness initiative focusing on the health needs of children under five years of age.”
And every day, in the checkout aisles at all their stores, kids can grab candy from ground level.
Consumers are indeed morons, but even they can see through this nonsense. Cone Communications (whose research we’ve highlighted in the past) reports that three-quarters of consumers see cause marketing as “solely for corporate gain.” (Now we know whose “cause” the marketers have been referring to.)
Further, only one-quarter of Cone’s survey respondents felt the alleged support marketers have been promoting has done any good.
Say what you will about Apple's marketing recently, but the company understands the “cause” trend. A few months ago, the company decided to opt out of the “EPEAT” program – the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool – that allegedly certifies a computer as “green” (lack of toxins, recyclability, etc.).
Apple knows that “green” doesn’t even make the top ten of choice criteria.
Not to make light of the personal devastation that Cyclone Sandy is about to unleash, but here is a cause marketers could support. Enterprise could reduce its rental car rates by 50% over the next two weeks. Heinz could give away pallets of ketchup. And the grocery stores could stack the essentials that consumers will need out on the front sidewalk.