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MLK Day and Cause Marketing

January 17, 2011

Today is deservedly Martin Luther King Day, which has grown to be know as the “MLK Day of Service.

The holiday honors the spirit of Dr. King and celebrates, with action, words he once spoke, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'”

Watch the video with Patrick Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, to learn more about the 2011 MLK Day of Service.

Both the MLK site and its affiliate, the Corporation for National and Community Service support connecting people to projects.

The day has grown beyond observance to action. It allows organizations to affiliate their service projects with the holiday and asks the country to participate. This piggy-backing of efforts and observances in a way that is mutually beneficial is at the heart of cause marketing.

So what’s your point marketing blogger?
Timing your organization’s messages and efforts with anything from local efforts to a national holiday can aid in its effective delivery. National organizations typically provide promotional kits that save you the time and effort of recreating materials. Significant holidays are also typically very present in the media, enabling your message’s reach to appear bigger than it really is. This is especially true within healthcare. Partnerships with national organizations and recognition of observances to persuade consumers to choose their services is everywhere. If you aren’t wearing pink scrubs in October…what planet are you on?

A word of caution: if you are not authentic in your intent or your business has very little relation to the cause, don’t do it. Organizations have contributed to some cynicism in the public’s perception of cause marketing. While it’s know that approximately 80% of consumers will switch brands (about equal in price and quality) to one that supports a cause, as many will switch away from you if the benefit seems too focused on the company and not the cause.

It’s easy to believe a service organization that’s working on “giving back” is a partner to MLK Day of Service. Here’s another one that’s spot-on:

Pampers Buy One Give One
Each pack of diapers purchased = a child’s vaccine
Supports UNICEF
Makes sense. Pampers, a diaper brand, supporting a project that relates to children.
Additionally, the campaign allows follow-up on the number of vaccinations its supplied.

But I’m not buying this:

KFC Buckets for the Cure
Ok. What does MSG-filled fowl have to do with curing breast cancer?
I suppose they sell chicken breasts? That must be it.
I don’t like it…and neither did the rest of the country.

Take great care in looking for your affiliations and follow these few simple steps:

1. Be sure you have a well defined brand and that the effort reinforces it.
2. Be sure you can clearly explain your choice of causes and it makes sense to your audience.
3. Be sure the value to EACH organization (yours and the cause) are in balance.
4. Provide a mechanism for your audience to spread the word.
5. Follow-up! Prove to your audience that it matters by reporting on your success.

Here’s to getting started on something that can make a difference…
Thank you Dr. King.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.


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