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March 31, 2016 - No Comments!

Cause Marketing: Dos and Don’ts for Creating Ads With a Purpose

160202_abc_colgate_commercial_16x9_992Cause marketing or cause-related marketing refers to a type of marketing involving the cooperative efforts of a for-profit business and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit. With so many companies coming around to the notion of “doing well by doing good”—a phrase that was coined at the advent of the “green” movement and made mainstream by the book Green to Gold by Esty and Winston—this represents the next new way to break through the noise of traditional advertising and marketing messaging.

And I think it’s great.

Not great that there’s the next new hot thing in marcom, but great in that it is serving a higher purpose. Because for a company to be able to associate with and communicate a cause in a creative way, they first must adopt a cause and actively support it. This is leading to greater visibility for some larger global issues and gives the consumer a sense of contributing when they buy the product.

Your company does not have to be a Fortune 500 in order to adopt a cause or support a charity. You can do so at any level. Here are some Dos and Don’ts to help you make it count from a “doing good” and a “doing well” standpoint:

DO

  • Be Relevant: Of the cause TV ads aired during the past two or three Super Bowls, this year’s Colgate “Every Drop Counts” commercial was my favorite. It was actually my favorite ad of the game overall for a lot of reasons. Colgate makes toothpaste. And there are only so many creative ways left to talk about how your toothpaste will whiten teeth, fight cavities, prevent gum disease, blah, blah, blah, better than the next one. But to relate the act of brushing your teeth to Colgate’s Bright Smiles, Bright Futures cause was really effective. Who didn’t either turn an inquiring eye around the room, even, like me, speak out and say, ”Okay, everybody in here turns off the water while brushing, and teaches your kids to do it, too, right?” or even sat in silence feeling guilty because you really do leave the water running. Not only that, but you automatically start thinking about other times when you might be wasting water…like standing around in the shower 10 minutes too long.
  • Be Authentic: I’m not sure the NFL was authentic during the past two years’ “No More” campaign. They mean well. And it’s a serious issue that they are poised to address. But is Eli Manning, a seemingly squeaky-clean, out-of-the-limelight kind of guy, a believable person to participate in the message? Especially when Rihanna, an actual victim of domestic violence, was cut from the 2014 season opener to not draw attention to the Ray Rice incident? Wouldn’t she have been a more authentic spokesperson in that campaign?
  • Be Part of a Larger Initiative: Cause marketing should be an extension of your overall Corporate Social Responsibility initiative. Again, you don’t have to be a large corporation to develop a well-thought out, relevant, authentic plan, but whatever cause you adopt should have other components, such as giving back or volunteering opportunities for employees and an environmental responsibility aspect. Think People, Planet, Philanthropy.

DON’T

  • Bring Us Down: The Super Bowl tends to be the air time and place for companies to make bold statements. And we’ve come to rely on those bold statements to also be funny and entertaining. There have been some great serious spots; Chrysler has had some really dramatic and well-done ads for the past several years. But even in this era of cause marketing, some can go too far. Who can forget the Nationwide Insurance commercial about preventable accidents that featured a dead child? Make a statement? Sure did. Was it effective? No way. People were too upset about it to focus on the core message. Not to mention upset because it was a downer for the whole fun Super Bowl experience.
  • Be A One-off: Referring back to the third ‘Do’: Be Part of A Larger Initiative, don’t create a commercial or ad once and then not keep the message going. With the Nationwide commercial, it is actually part of their ongoing Make Safe Happen initiative, but after the Super Bowl spot debacle, we’ve never heard another word about it with the exception of the website. It’s almost like they tried cause marketing, it was a big fail, and then they stuck with Peyton Manning humming the jingle…nice and safe and comfortable. They should try again. The Colgate Every Drop Counts ad made us stop and think, even if we felt a little guilty. And it prompted positive action. The Nationwide spot was too creepy and made us feel so uncomfortable. They have an important message and should find another way to get parents to stop, think, become aware, and take preventative measures with help from the tools on the Nationwide site.
  • Get Old: Keep the same cause, continue to grow and develop your Corporate Social Responsibility plan and initiatives, and find new ways to communicate your message and engage your customers through your website and social media channels. If your audience participates in your cause, they will likely become loyal customers.

November 23, 2015 - No Comments!

JC Penney is Suffering an Identity Crisis

J.C. Penney Co. is suffering an identity crisis, and one that began before the disastrous term of Ron Johnson back in June of 2011. The Penney brand got old and tired. Pretty simple. Johnson had the sexy resume line item of coming right out of Apple. If anyone could revive the retailer, it would be him. We all know what happened—the implosion came fast and furious. But why?

JCP Identity Crisis_2One of my favorite quotes is, “It’s not change that people are afraid of, it’s the pace of change.” This saying applies to personal situations, workplaces, and your customers. Ron Johnson moved too fast. He tried to apply the Apple ultra-hip, no price compromise model to a store best known for its men’s khakis. It was too big of a stretch. And the Penney’s core customer is not the same as the Apple customer.

The consequence was two-fold: both Johnson’s personal brand and the J.C. Penney brand took a hit. In both cases, perhaps non-recoverable. Enter Marvin Ellison. In a recent interview with the Dallas Business Journal, Ellison revealed his plans for turning around the company and rekindling the damaged relationship with his core customer.

My first reaction to the article was that it was a little underwhelming, a little lacking in a sense of urgency, and a little elementary. Revamp the bedding department. Improve the online shopping experience. Not exactly Apple-esque. But safe. And while safe might be boring, I have to admit it’s probably the best approach for Ellison to take. Ron Johnson made a mistake that Ellison has not. He didn’t consider the customer. He thought what worked at Apple, with a completely different customer demographic, would work at JCP. There was no consideration of the customer. And the customer felt it. The change in what they knew and trusted from the Penney brand came too fast, with no warning and no explanation. The retailer was in trouble, and Johnson made it worse.

Ellison can’t afford to make the same mistake. He can only hope to undo the damage. Proceed with caution. Go back to the drawing board. And then hope he has a customer base left that will still be loyal. I like his plans to bring in a celebrity exclusive with Michael Strahan and the Sephora store-within-a-store concept. Will it be enough to keep the stores treading water long enough to apply some bolder moves down the line? Perhaps. Will the storied retailer go the way of Sears or Montgomery Ward? Likely. Either way, Penney and other retailers can learn some valuable lessons about staying true to your brand promise. Change is okay, if introduced and executed in a mindful way. With so many opportunities to engage in conversations with your stakeholders today, there is no excuse not to talk with them. And when you do introduce change it will be as a result of your customer being heard. That will go a long way towards rekindling those lost relationships and positioning your company for long-term success.

JCP Identity-crisis

September 15, 2015 - No Comments!

When it comes to The Donald, does brash and bold ‘Trump’ politically conscious?

AP_donald_trump_Jef_150616_16x9_992Love him or hate him, there are a few things that Donald Trump is accomplishing with his approach to his presidential campaign:

  1. People are paying attention. And people are giving him attention. It might be positive, as in attending his speeches or following his twitter account.  It might be negative, as in picketing his speaking events or removing him or his events from sponsorship or television.
  2. Other political candidates are talking about issues that were uncomfortable for them to address in the past, such as the U.S.’s immigration policy.
  3. He has a prominent place at the debates, front and center.
  4. He is receiving a lot of free press, which is contributing to number 1. on this list.

The Trump brand, both the Donald Trump persona as well as his business brand are well known worldwide, in part because he has always maintained this brash, bold, in-your-face style. And this has served him well for his celebrity and in doing business. But will it serve him well as he attempts to become elected to the highest office in the land—the President of the United States?

I have been interviewed and contributed a book chapter on the topic of The 3 Cs of Personal Branding, with the 3 Cs being: consistent, comprehensive, and concise.  I think Mr. Trump is being all of these: He is certainly consistent in his presentation and his stance on certain issues. He is comprehensive in explaining how he will accomplish each of his plans. Concise? Well, he certainly doesn’t mince words, and he can make his point very plainly. In comparison to many politicians, he can be considered concise.

But I think for the purposes of determining whether his personal brand will be considered presidential come November 8, 2016, I may need to add an additional 3 Cs: conscious, controlled, and classy.

Conscious: In the title of this piece, I chose the phrase “politically conscious” rather than “politically correct.” Mr. Trump can still be himself—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and also be conscious of…well…people’s feelings. Latinos and women make up a large part of the voting public. He wants to be their President. For every minute he’s having to defend remarks made in an unconscious state, he isn’t speaking about solving our country’s problems.

Controlled: You know that old saying, “Think before you speak?” We all have to practice it in our personal lives and in our work places. The more visible we are, the more conscious and controlled we have to be about what we say. Especially now, when one misstep will appear on the social media platforms in seconds and remain there forever. When Mr. Trump says, “I don’t have time to be politically correct (or conscious),” I would say, “Make time, because you’re wasting time defending politically unconscious remarks.”

Classy: Classy in this context means gracious, grateful, respectful.

I have actually met Donald Trump, and had an intimate, one-on-one conversation with him for about 15 minutes. During that encounter, I wasn’t focused on his hair, or his bigger-than-life persona, or loud, ridiculous remarks. There wasn’t any of that. He was actually conscious of his conversation with me and me only, controlled and thoughtful in what he was asking and saying, and totally classy. That’s the guy I want to see show up in this presidential campaign. That’s the Trump brand that can help him be as successful in the political arena as in the business world.