Striking the Right Balance of Philanthropy, Marketing, and Business

Cause marketers have to carefully balance philanthropy, marketing, and business in the programs they create. For example, while U2’s Bono is best known for his cause marketing success with Product (RED), another venture with his wife, Ali Hewson, during the launch of a fashion line with clothes made in sub-Saharan Africa had a rougher start.

Bono and Hewson’s noble intentions unfortunately didn’t get enough consumers to pay $800 for a jacket. Design and fit mattered more.“We focused too much on the mission in the beginning,” explained Hewson. “It’s the clothes, it’s the product. It’s a fashion company. That needs to be first and foremost.”

Effects of not striking a balance:

  • If you overemphasize philanthropy, you may miss the powerful opportunity consumerism can deliver. Just think what would have happened if Bono had been focused on philanthropy when he first solicited companies to support Product (RED). He would have accepted their checks, which many offered, instead of signing cause marketing pacts, which raised millions more and established (RED) as a leading cause brand in just a few short years.

  • If you underweigh philanthropy, you run the risk of putting marketing first and turning consumers off because they’ll see the company’s efforts as insincere and cursory. This is the chord Urban Outfitters struck with its branded National Public Radio tee that sold on NPR’s and Urban Outfitters’ online stores. The same tee sold in both stores, but only those sold at the NPR’s store benefited public radio. Someone should have told Urban Outfitters that tees are supposed to be light. Giving isn’t.

  • If you overemphasize marketing and business, you blind yourself to the greater good. Even when the philanthropy is in the millions and the marketing even more, and seemingly well intentioned, people see it for what it is: a dumb ploy to sell more stuff.

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