Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Breast Cancer Awareness and cause marketing

September 26, 2013

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Dainty Cakes Tampa made this special batch for a breast cancer awareness fundraiser.

We’re just a few days away from the start of the annual National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which as you know turns October pink with support ribbons for the effort to defeat breast cancer via medical research.

Following the controversy in 2011 surrounding political stances taken by fundraising powerhouse the Susan G. Komen Foundation — the organization that sponsors Race for the Cure events among many other initiatives — support for Komen events reportedly waned and the whole issue of so-called  “cause marketing” by corporations received the magnifying-glass treatment.  I think it’s still an interesting and valid concept for you to pursue if you want a business or financial tie-in to the high-visibility breast-cancer month.  Forbes calls it “coopetition” when companies or industry groups ally themselves with causes they believe complement their brands.

Even though the Komen brand was tainted, as some news organizations put it, by its controversy over financial support of Planned Parenthood, plenty of companies stuck with Komen; you might scan the various lists of partners and sponsors on the Komen site for big names from your region and ask how they have been coping with any feedback from shareholders or customers, how their level of giving to Komen has (or has not changed) and if the Komen issue has sparked any changes in the corporate sponsorship or marketing policies.  This might be a sidebar to a broader story.

For example, there are other interesting trends in cause marketing that you can localize.   Among them:

Holiday cause marketing. 

It looks like consumer goods companies are sort of double-dipping by tying holiday marketing campaigns to do-good efforts; check out the roundup on this interesting Cause Marketing Forum site; companies and brands from Overstock.com to Kmart to Philadelphia Cream Cheese are heading into the fourth-quarter with all sorts of team-ups and tie-ins that benefit charities.   It seems like this could be a dual-edged sword depending on how consumers feel about the charities in question — on the other hand, maybe it’s a savvy way to make people feel good about buying that third LED TV or noshing on a cheese-filled canapé.  Also check out the Cause Marketing Forum’s CauseUpdate.com site with news about current campaigns.

Entertainment cause marketing. 

You’ve heard of product placement, in which items like Coke cans and packs of Marlboro are prominently featured in movie scenes.  How about “cause placement” ?   few weeks ago watching “Hot in Cleveland” I came to attention when one of the characters made some reference to a Petsmart Charities event the fictional characters had attended; hearing an actual brand name like that piqued my interest; I didn’t find much info but the retailer’s non-profit arm that champions animal adoption did mention the TVLand program and the on-air plug in its social media feeds and according to what I’ve read since, cause marketing by entertainment companies is on the rise.

Here’s a Huffington Post piece about a website mentioned in “Breaking Bad,” it redirects to the real-life National Cancer Coalition.  What an interesting twist; if your area is home to any big non-profits or charities, you might take a cause marketing twist and look at it from the POV of the fundraising groups — are any of your local trying to get placement in pop culture?  Believe it or not, there actually appears to be a consulting firm, CausePlacement.com, that facilitates the connections, and it’s touting an upcoming October conference — this press release says 300 representatives of causes and the entertainment industry will meet in New York City shortly for Entertaining Good 2013, a conference on the subject.  Why not call the organizers and find out if anyone in your area is speaking or attending the show; what a great peg for a cause placement story related to your neck of the woods.

Crowdfunding. 

AdWeek says brands are using crowdfunding to get their names in front of consumers, from Honda’s support of a “Save the Drive-In” campaign to Domino’s Powered by Pizza movement.  Are any local crowdfunding efforts in your area getting corporate support, or a hand from local biggies like car dealers, real estate firms, banks and so on?

Sidebar idea:  I’m always amazed at the array of merchandise that sports pink ribbons this time of year; you might do a pictorial or graphic sidebar, particularly including locally produced items or perhaps a roundup of tie-ins at an area mall or supermarket.

As background, this Cone Communications report from 2008 on the 25th anniversary of cause marketing is dated but provides some interesting background about the phenomenon; you might give it a read.

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