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    December 7, 2008

    Corporate Do-Gooding the Social Way

    Marketing through corporate "do-gooding" is not a new concept. For several years now GE has been showing us commercials promoting their "ecomagination." BP is no longer British Petroleum but the much less planet-threatening Beyond Petroleum. Honda has been running a commercial on TV showing a father and son donating food for Thanksgiving: "Keep doing what you do best, and we'll keep doing what we do.." the commercial tells us. And if I am in the market for a new car and buy a new Subaru, they'll donate $250 to one of five charities.

    Corporate-charitable partnerships are not new to direct marketing either. Matching grant programs are a DM favorite.

    However, in recent months, with the economic news, it seems that corporations are falling all over themselves to show us just how "good" they are in order to gain our business. It seems that corporate wisdom these days seems to go as such:

    -consumers have little money to spend
    -maybe if we show them how we are helping others and not just thinking about our own corporate greedy type things, when consumers do decide to spend money, they will spend it with us.

    What is interesting to me is how this has been manifesting itself on social networks, such as Facebook.

    Starbucks went Red for World Aids Day this year by starting a "Starbucks Goes Red" cause on Facebook. Startbucks was the actual owner of this Facebook "cause" and between ads on Facebook and the viral nature, by December first there were over 690,000 Facebook members "attending" the event. This was a separate event from the Starbucks Facebook profile. Setting this up as a Facebook "event" had numerous advantages:

    1) Facebook reminds users of "events" they have signed up to attend on their profiles
    2) Facebook shows events users have signed up for to their networks
    3) Facebook allows users to invite their networks to participate in events they are attending
    4) The event page gave Starbucks the opportunity to showcase their "do-gooding" while redirecting people to the corporate website to find out more information (such as participating locations) and develop a network to send other corporate-related messages to.

    McDonald's has also gotten into the act with its "Give a Hand" campaign on Facebook, benefiting its children's charities. You can give a hand to your friend through the Application, or you could march yourself into an actual McDonald's and for just $1 "give a hand." (and hopefully, buy a Big Mac in the process).

    All this corporate do-gooding has me wondering-might the time be coming when fundraisers no longer have to come knocking on corporations' doors to form partnerships, but when corporations will come to us? With corporations so actively fundraising on the social networks for their favorite causes, are they directly competing with the causes themselves? Sure, charities have always had "partnerships" where part of a sale of some item might have benefited them, but these arrangements seem to be proliferating. Are we all going to start getting in each other's way as everyone rushes in to be the do-goodiest?


    John Lepp said...

    Food for thought Miriam (no pun intended). But I think that charities and their fundraisers will still need to put on their running shoes and do a bit of hustle to drum up support from corporations big and small. It's great to see companies taking more of a proactive approach - but in the case of McDonalds and Starbucks - it seems like more of a smart marketing move than a "wanting to do good" situation.

    John Lepp

    Anonymous said...

    Initiatives like Starbucks, McDonalds, and Subaru are still contingent on positive consumer behavior. How do you see the current economic crisis affecting Gen Yers as consumers? Will the economic climate affect the way Gen Yers' engage with nonprofit organizations as volunteers or financial contributors?