Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cause-related Marketing Amidst Economic Uncertaintly

Is cause-related marketing important during these tough economic times? Some may say it is essential and imperative given the current circumstances many businesses and industries are facing. While consumers are tightening their belts, they will still find somewhere to spend their money. With a cause that coincides with specific beliefs or missions of targeted consumers, spending money can be justified easier. People can embrace these tough financial times with faith and confidence in their fellow man.

During the holiday season cause initiatives were present and prominent. Companies such Macy's, Sears Holdings launched campaigns with cause-related initiatives. Macy's launched the "Believe" holiday campaign, which benefited the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Sears also announced it would give $100 in merchandise to each of the more than 30,000 registrants on its "Heroes at Home" Wish Registry, which went to benefit members of the US Armed Forces.

Subaru of America is in the midst of its "Share the Love" cause campaign, running from November 24 to January 2. This campaign allows new vehicle-buying customers to pick one of five charities to receive a $250 corporate donation. The effort is expected to raise $5 million, and I am rooting for success.

American Eagle Outfitters and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America teamed up to create a PSA featuring R&B star Nick Cannon., a search Web site that compiles the results of other search engines, announced it would begin donating a portion of revenues from search engines to the ASPCA, with a goal of raising $1 million by the end of 2009.

Cause-related marketing is good for businesses and causes. It can give the consumer a sense of importance and satisfaction knowing that they contributed to a worth-while cause. And, in a time when many do not want to spend money anywhere, giving them a sense of purpose with their purchase seems like a smart thing to do. Still, one must not get caught up in only the businesses benefit. We must remember that these campaigns truly do have a larger mission. Helping those in need is noble and responsible. In our current trials and troubles we should stop and realize that things can be, and are, worse for many.

Personally, I made it a point to shop at Sears this year because of their cause-related efforts. I heard about their dedication to US troops and employees called to duty, and wanted to support a company with whom I thought embraced the holiday spirit and recognized the sacrifice of its employees and our county's soldiers.

My friends and family have voiced similar feelings regarding specific organization's contributions. The consensus seems to be that if you are going to spend your money right now, you should at least contribute to a meaningful cause.

So, is cause-related marketing the answer to everybody's problems for 2009? Probably not. But, it could really help. It benefits the company, the charity, the consumer, and ultimately the economy as a whole. Donations to charities are down and non-profits are most likely hurting due to a lack of disposable income, from both businesses and individuals. But, that is a totally different post for a different time. Still, having a smart, strategic, comprehensive cause-related strategy could help in these trying times. The key is to be original, organized, and sincere.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Social Media is a Major Player

While social media has been growing and becoming more and more relevant in the public relations and marketing worlds, it is now officially a prominent and official practice. Recently, a group of media professionals formed an agency that trains PR firms and other clients to use new/social media.

This just shows the importance of being well practiced and experienced in the realm that is social media. Who really thought it would be this important? And, while many realize the need for effective social media outreach, few really seem to have a firm grasp on how to use it. Is familiarity with using these sites enough to be considered a capable professional? No. Still, I have found many feel that because they use Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc. they are "trained" in social media.

But, that simply isn't the case. You must have knowledge of how to manipulate and effectively use these mediums in a comprehensive PR or marketing plan. Just because you use a social networking site for personal reasons doesn't mean you know how to use it for professional purposes. So, while many PR firms are hiring young professionals based on the assumption that they are tech-savvy, just remember that being tech-savvy is far different than being social media-savvy.

Being social media-savvy consists of a strong strategic planning background, as well as a knowledge of computer applications. Still, this new firm, AdHocnium, allows an opportunity for agencies that are experiencing social media skills gaps to educate their employees and bring them up to par. AdHocnium will not be the last of these types of firms. As social media's influence grows, this particular industry of social media experts and their training services will grow as well.

Will this be a trend that eventually ends with bankrupt companies? Maybe. The social media bubble could burst at any time. But, I don't see that happening in the near future. For now there is a lot of money to be made and a wide variety of opportunities for PR professionals still to come. This simply solidifies social media's place as a major player in the communications industry.