Monday, October 30, 2017

Spirit Halloween: Making Hospitals Less Scary For Kids

Spirit Halloween is the largest seasonal Halloween retailer in the country, but its work goes beyond helping shoppers ring in and celebrate the spookiest season of the year. Spirit of Children, the company's charity program, has raised over $37 million for 140 Child Life Departments at various hospitals over the past decade. Spirit's efforts transcend simple fundraising, however, as it also uses its eerie expertise to host unforgettable Halloween parties for pediatric patients in hospitals around the country. In its own words, Spirit of Children brings "fun and funding" to those who need it most - but its commitment to the "fun" is what really brings the program to the next level.

Hospital stays, no matter the cause or the length, can be isolating and demoralizing for children; kids often report feeling afraid and anxious during their time as patients "regardless of the incidence of invasive of painful healthcare." Spirit's Halloween parties help to combat this by establishing a much-needed sense of normalcy and optimism for those who wouldn't otherwise be able to experience the joy of the holiday. From pumpkin decorating and face-painting to toilet paper mummy racing, the seasonally spooky activities leave attendees with a renewed spirit and memories that will last a lifetime.

Spirit Halloween is a great example of a company that is doing CSR right: its chosen cause caters to its audience of children and families and reflects its core message of spreading Halloween cheer. Plus, it brings smiles to the faces of those who need it most, and that signifies success in my book.
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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Disney & Teaching Kids to Code

Since 2014, Disney has worked alongside to expand access to computer science education, particularly among populations that are underrepresented in STEM like female students and students of color.

Most recently, the company collaborated with the nonprofit to produce a free online tutorial called Moana: Wayfinding with Code that serves to introduce computer science to kids of all ages. With familiar characters and a captivating storyline, the tutorial demystifies coding by transforming it from a daunting challenge to a fun game - especially for Moana fans. Its visual programming language and drag-and-drop interface make it intuitive and easy to use, so learning about concepts like loops, conditionals, and sequences is a piece of cake. There are even videos at the beginning of each level to engage users with the story and help them connect the dots between the characters and the code. 

Through its cause-based partnership with, Disney is using its massive platform to give millions of children all over the world the opportunity to learn an increasingly important skill - and have fun while they're at it. As Disney employee Jimmy Pitaro said, "Today’s students are tomorrow’s storytellers, and we’re introducing them to the technological skills they will need to bring the stories to life."
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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Cause Marketing and Your Business: Choosing the Right Cause

In my last post, I outlined how both your company and the world at large could benefit from your participation in cause marketing campaigns, nonprofit partnerships, and other corporate social responsibility efforts. If this caught your eye, you may be wondering how to take the next step of identifying the cause that best fits your business.

Some brands have obvious related causes; take Burt's Bees and their campaign to save the bees or Warby Parker's work to increase access to eye care. Other notable examples include Massage Envy helping those with chronic pain and Colgate's free dental screenings and oral health education initiatives. If your business falls into this category, it should be relatively easy to begin your journey to improving the planet (and your profit margin - remember that 71% of consumers are willing to pay more for a product from a socially and environmentally responsible company, and 80% are willing to buy a product from an unknown brand if it has strong social and environmental commitments).

For others, it can be difficult to identify a relevant cause. Fortunately, it's often as simple as outlining your mission and values. The first thing you need to do when brainstorming causes with which to align your business is identify who your clients or customers are and what it is that your product or service aims to do for them. Do you sell organic food or teach yoga classes? Your ultimate goal as a company is likely to ensure the wellness of your customers, so associating with a health-related cause can underscore your commitment to theirs. Are you a store that primarily caters to women? Support for nonprofits that revolve around women's advocacy, health, and success will resonate with your customer base and demonstrate your dedication to their needs.

Remember that fit is what's most important. If the cause or organization clashes with any aspect of your business, you could end up with a lackluster campaign that falls flat with your customers or even generates backlash. Remember KFC's Buckets for the Cure? It turns out that fast food and cancer research didn't quite mesh in the minds of the general public, and neither did coffee and race relations. Learn from these "corporate fails" and take the time to choose a cause that makes sense for your business.  
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Friday, June 30, 2017

How Your Company Can Benefit From Cause Marketing

Has your company invested in cause marketing yet? Over the past decade, the amount of companies taking part in cause marketing and sponsorship has grown exponentially as more and more begin to realize the benefits it has for both them and the world at large.

Research shows that cause marketing actually makes a measurable difference in the grand scheme of things, meaning your efforts won't be going to waste. In addition to making the world a better place by spreading the word about a great cause, studies show that cause marketing appeals to consumers and can boost your business, making it a win-win for everyone. Aligning your company with a related cause or nonprofit has many advantages for you: increased customer purchases, favorability, and loyalty, awareness through word-of-mouth, greater employee engagement and retention, and new customers are just a few.

For example, take the Olay skincare brand and their partnership with the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. Through multimedia coverage and an innovative digital marketing campaign, they were able to attract over 9,000 people to their free skin cancer screenings. You might also remember the more recent Bring Back the Bees campaign from Burt's Bees where the company helped plant over a billion wildflowers to contribute to bee conservation efforts. This endeavor led to tens of thousands of views on related content and significant media coverage in addition to giving back to the environment, making it worthwhile for all involved.

In today's ultra-connected digital age, what you don't do can be just as important as the actions you do take. Neglecting to stand up for a cause can actually cost your business, as 87% of Americans say they would switch brands to one that supports a relevant issue or nonprofit. Do you want to be the brand they abandon, or the one they flock towards?

To learn more about choosing the right cause for your business, stay tuned for my next post!

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The United Nations & the Smurfs: Promoting Peace

Although this unlikely partnership may seem amusing at first, teaching children about the importance of equality and world peace is no laughing matter.

The "Small Smurfs, Big Goals" campaign was designed to spread awareness about the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that were agreed on by all 193 member countries of the United Nations in 2015. The partnership was timed to coincide with the International Day of Happiness as the goals revolve around ending poverty, achieving equality, and promoting peace with the ultimate aim of making the world a happier place.

These 17 Goals directly relate to the message of friendship and tolerance that the Smurfs have been associated with for decades. While some may initially be put off by the Smurfs' whimsy paired with the seriousness of the mission of the United Nations, speaking through the Smurfs is a great way to reach children. As they have previously partnered with nonprofits like UNICEF, working with the United Nations is a daring but ultimately logical next step, and one that will ultimately help to educate children around the world.
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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Amazon & Reading is Fundamental: Spreading Literacy

Amazon recently used their platform for good by partnering with Reading is Fundamental (RIF), a nonprofit children's literacy organization that provides books to kids in low-income families by donating them to schools, Head Start programs, community centers, health clinics, migrant camps, and homeless shelters. From February to March, Amazon promoted RIF's Amazon wish list and the ability to use it to send books directly to the charity for distribution. This opportunity was extensively advertised throughout Amazon's various digital channels as well as relevant product pages, and getting the word out to their massive customer base paid off: thousands of books were donated. 

In addition to encouraging consumer action and making a difference in the lives of countless children and their families, this is a strategic marketing move for Amazon in that it reminds its customers of its humble beginnings as the first online bookstore and affirms their commitment to remembering where they came from. By dedicating their resources and utilizing their wide reach to encouraging and promoting literacy, Amazon has shown that, despite becoming a household name, they haven't strayed far from their roots.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Link Between Millennials and Cause Marketing

In addition to making the world a better place, cause marketing has a key benefit that many brands are unaware of: it attracts millennials like moths to a flame. Research consistently shows that millennials are a highly socially conscious generation: a 2015 study revealed that 9 in 10 millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause, 70% would pay more for a product that makes an impact on an issue, and two-thirds actively use social media to engage with socially responsible companies, while research published last month from the Boston Consulting Group shows that millennials expect brands to support social issues and will favor and reward those that contribute the most to causes. Extra points are given to those who integrate social responsibility directly into their corporate culture or business model rather than simply donating money.

As a millennial myself, I can personally confirm the veracity of this claim. My brand loyalty to Ben and Jerry's stems from their dedication to fair trade and environmental issues, and my glasses are from Warby Parker solely because of the "Buy a Pair, Give a Pair" program.

It takes more than a TV commercial or a cleverly-worded newspaper ad to attract and retain the millennial market, however. When delivering a message about your brand's commitment to social responsibility, it is important that it take a form that appeals to millennials, and studies show that the most impactful vehicles for millennial-focused, cause-based content are videos, infographics, and games. Interactive experiences and visual storytelling work best to entertain and engage the most digitally connected generation

If you can make a difference and effectively share it with the world, millennials will inevitably notice and appreciate your hard work—and it will pay off in dividends.
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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tostitos, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, & Uber: Decreasing Drunk Driving

Super Bowl Sunday is Tostitos' time to shine. At watch parties and post-game celebrations alike, chips and dip are a staple. Instead of focusing on snack promotion this year, however, Tostitos is dedicating its time and effort to a more worthy issue: drunk driving prevention.

Just in time for the biggest sporting event of the year, the company has partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Uber to create a bag of chips that doubles as a breathalyzer. The limited edition "Party Safe" bags have a sensor that can detect traces of alcohol in a user's breath. When the bag is used by someone who has been drinking, LED lights on the bag turn red, form the shape of a steering wheel, and reveal a reminder not to drive while impaired along with a code that can be used for a discounted Uber ride. The bags also have NFC tags that allow any smartphone and tablet users to easily access the Uber promotional code by simply tapping the bag with their device.

The campaign's ultimate goal is to reduce the shockingly high number of instances of drunk driving that occur around the Super Bowl on an annual basis. According to the National Highway Safety Administration, 45 people were killed in drunk driving accidents in 2015 alone.

Although these bags are reportedly difficult to obtain and will only be issued for a limited time, the campaign has succeeded in creating considerable buzz about a relevant problem. Hopefully, those who have read about this effort to end drunk driving will think twice before contributing to the problem this Sunday  even if they don't have a breathalyzer bag on hand.

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Burt's Bees: Protecting Bees

Honeybees, though small, play a huge role in our world. They perform 80% of all pollination, creating a huge chunk of the food we eat every day, and they contribute billions to the value of crop production. Unfortunately for the planet, a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder is causing our bees to vanish. CCD, which experts believe is caused by a combination of climate change, the usage of pesticides, and habitat destruction, is leading to an unprecedented level of loss. In the United States alone, over a quarter of the managed honeybee population has disappeared since 1990, and these numbers are rapidly increasing.

Last spring, Burt's Bees launched its Bring Back the Bees campaign in an attempt to change this. As it is easily the most bee-centric company in the public eye, Burt's Bees is the perfect brand to raise awareness of the issues that threaten the existence of the species – and it didn't disappoint. By illustrating the issue with an attention-grabbing metaphor and dropping the letter B from its name, products, social media posts, and website URL, Burt's Bees was able to cleverly and effectively underscore the importance of the presence of bees.

As habitat loss is one of the reasons the bee population is dwindling, the company also wanted to focus on the importance of habitat restoration. With the aim of planting one billion wildflower seeds, Burt's Bees pledged to donate a thousand for every use of #BringBackTheBees on social media and every purchase of Bring Back The Bees lip balm. This goal was not only reached, but surpassed by over 50%. By devoting itself to a relevant and worthy cause, Burt's Bees successfully increased its social media following while simultaneously making an incredible difference for the world at large
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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Colgate & The Nature Conservancy: Saving Water

Every time you let the tap run while you brush your teeth, you waste approximately four gallons of water. As one of the leading toothbrush and toothpaste brands in the United States, Colgate is in a unique position to address this issue. Earlier this year, the brand partnered with The Nature Conservancy to shed light on the importance of turning off the faucet.

Together, they launched the Every Drop Counts campaign, which utilized an eponymous hashtag and a Super Bowl commercial to spread the word and encourage consumers to use water responsibly. The ad, which contains no branded products, illustrates the jarring contrast between those who choose to waste water and those who need it most.

The cause-based commercial was Colgate's first foray into the world of Super Bowl advertising, and it was for the betterment of the planet rather than their company. The power and simplicity of the message, especially coming from a trustworthy and well-known source, stuck with viewers. This helped to kickstart the conservation campaign; tens of thousands have pledged to turn the water off when brushing their teeth, meaning that, potentially, thousands of gallons of water could be saved. In hopes of raising further awareness about water issues in the United States, Colgate and the Nature Conservancy are continuing to collaborate on this initiative  in the meantime, pledge to conserve water here.
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Friday, September 30, 2016

Goya Foods & The Maestro Cares Foundation: Helping Children In Latin American Countries

Goya Foods, the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the country, has always given back to its community. One of its most notable partnerships is with the Maestro Cares Foundation, a nonprofit that provides underprivileged children with housing, education, healthcare, and other basic necessities. They work together to establish orphanages in Latin American countries, with Goya providing financial support, donating hundreds of thousands of pounds of food, and even creating a unique mentorship program. A select group of employees works one-on-one with the children, ensuring that they will have individualized support and guidance.

Most recently, Goya assisted Maestro Cares with the formation of its third orphanage, the Casa Hogar Alegría in Toluca, Mexico, which provides both shelter and schooling. In addition to donating 15 cents for every can of beans sold, Goya expanded its mentorship program to include the 70 girls that were given a new life at the Casa Hogar Alegría.

This partnership is ideal for everyone involved as it allows Goya to affirm its commitment to its Latino target market, strengthen its brand image, and, most importantly, help Maestro Cares to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of children in need.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sabra: Increasing Access to Healthy Food

An estimated 23.5 million Americans live in food deserts, areas of the country that have little-to-no access to affordable and nutritious food. While this is partly due to a lack of grocery stores and farmer's markets in these regions, food deserts are also caused by a disproportionate amount of fast food restaurants and convenience stores that carry inexpensive, unhealthy products. Research has shown that food deserts contribute to health problems, namely malnutrition and the various chronic diseases associated with obesity. Although this is a complicated problem in need of a multipronged approach, most agree that it would be a good start to make nutritious products more affordable and readily available.

Earlier this month, the CEO of the Sabra Dipping Company announced that the company would be investing time and resources towards an effort to eliminate food deserts. Sabra's Plants With a Purpose program will begin to tackle this issue in what has been called the largest food desert in the country: Richmond, Virginia. In the program's first weeks, the employees at Sabra's Virginia hummus-manufacturing facility have started a work-share garden, planting and growing fresh fruit and vegetables on their own time. "Employee gardens" were considered a fad a few years ago, but Sabra is putting a twist on the concept by donating the harvest to a local nonprofit called Renew Richmond.

Renew Richmond's urban agriculture program helps to provide healthy foods through "veggie box" deliveries in low-income Richmond communities. Citizens in these areas, who have been forced to rely on the convenience stores within walking distance for sustenance, can order twenty pounds of fresh produce through Renew Richmond for just twenty dollars. In addition to this partnership, Sabra is working to ensure that the access to high-quality produce is supported by relevant education and community connections. It also plans to grow Plants With a Purpose on an annual basis, with the goal of eventually raising awareness and alleviating the impact of food deserts in every affected state. 

While the campaign is only in its beginning stages, it is clear that this pilot program is already a great example of effective cause marketing. In addition to helping those in need, Plants With a Purpose serves to spread the word about Sabra's products and affirm its core brand message that healthy food can bring people together. I look forward to seeing how the brand's program will grow and flourish, much like its garden, over the upcoming years.

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

AT&T: Preventing Distracted Driving

Since its creation in 2010, the It Can Wait campaign from AT&T has spread the word about the dangers of texting and driving through, among others, a viral hashtag, creative PSAs, a virtual reality simulation tour, and a free mobile app. As one of the country's top mobile providers, AT&T is acutely aware of its responsibility to prevent distracted driving; 7 in 10 people admit to using their cellphone behind the wheel. Despite the commonality of this behavior, it is much riskier than many seem to think. A study sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that mere glances away from the road lasting more than 2 seconds increase the risk of a crash to over 2 times that of normal driving. Whether distracted drivers take their hands off of the wheel, their eyes off of the road, or their mind off of the act of driving, they are endangering both themselves and those around them. There is no question that cell phones contribute to this phenomenon, and AT&T addressed this and demonstrated its commitment to social responsibility with It Can Wait.

One of the most impactful aspects of the campaign has been the introduction of the hashtag #X. #X serves to pause a conversation, whether through texting or via social media, by succinctly informing the recipient that the sender is about to get behind the wheel. AT&T enlisted celebrities ranging from Russell Simmons to Shaun White to promote the hashtag on social media, ensuring that the message was spread to thousands of drivers across the world. AT&T also created a series of YouTube PSAs to promote the use of #X. Aimed at teenagers and young adults, the videos featured popular musicians including Demi Lovato and Tegan & Sara sharing their experiences and reasons for choosing to text #X before driving.

In 2015, AT&T further brought attention to the cause by utilizing a long-standing fad in the world of technology: virtual reality. After creating a lifelike video simulation of an all-too common situation involving texting and driving, it launched a 100-city tour to allow Americans to safely experience the consequences of distraction behind the wheel.

This year, the brand developed a free app called AT&T DriveMode to help curb the urge to text and drive. DriveMode turns on automatically when traveling 15 miles per hour, silences incoming text messages, and even has the option to send an auto-reply to let friends and family know why you can't respond.

Throughout the 6 years since its inception, the campaign has had an remarkable impact. Millions of people have downloaded the DriveMode app, and over 9 million have pledged to "keep their eyes on the road, not their phone." Follow-up surveys from AT&T proved that a significant amount of these pledges were more than empty promises; one third say they have already changed their habits. Further research indicates that It Can Wait directly saved lives, as the campaign itself correlated with a reduction of over 7% of crashes in the state of Texas and over 9% in the state of Kentucky. AT&T has arguably changed countless lives by investing years of effort and resources into communicating the dangers of distracted driving, and I look forward to seeing how it continues to tackle the issue in the future.

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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Fitbit & The American Heart Association, The National MS Society, and The American Diabetes Association: Emphasizing Health

Rather than focusing on a short-term fix for those who are out of shape, Fitbit made waves last year by highlighting its commitment to consumers' lifelong health. As a leader in the health and fitness market thanks to its popular eponymous activity tracker, the brand was in a perfect position to launch FitForGood - a charitable platform encouraging users to exercise to benefit relevant causes. Fitbit pledged to donate a total of one million dollars across three major health organizations: The American Heart Association, The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and The American Diabetes Association. These charities were picked to participate due to their close alignment with Fitbit's mission to help Americans live active and healthy lives.

No Fitbit device was needed to sign up and take part in the challenge, which required that users select a charity from the three given and record their steps throughout each day using the MobileTrack feature on the free Fitbit app. The charity with the most tracked steps at the campaign's close won $500,000, the second place winner received $350,000, and the organization in last place took the remaining $150,000. Multiple celebrity partners spread the word about the campaign including Amy Schumer, Shemar Moore, and Julianne Hough, and by encouraging their fans to participate, they helped Fitbit to reach a grand total of twenty five billion steps.

By establishing FitForGood, Fitbit affirmed its commitment to the wellbeing of both its customers and society at large. The company created a unique opportunity for people to contribute to a health-based charity of their choice while also improving their own health, which is both a wonderful way to improve the world around us and a strategic method to simultaneously strengthen Fitbit's message of wellness and encourage usage of its app. A win-win for everyone involved!
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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Bank of America & The Special Olympics: Prioritizing Inclusion

For over three decades, Bank of America has partnered with The Special Olympics in an ongoing effort to encourage diversity and inclusion of those with disabilities and special needs. Most recently, the company created the first-ever cross-country Unified Relay Across America and utilized social media with the #PassTheFlame hashtag in 2015.

The Unified Relay passed through every American state in under fifty days and involved tens of thousands of participants carrying the Flame of Hope to "light the way" for a better future for those with developmental disabilities. The Flame of Hope was split into three flames at the start of the race - one for each of the three routes simultaneously beginning in Maine, Florida, and Washington D.C. Each route was guided by groups of co-captains including country singer-songwriter Josh Turner, Chicago Sky forward and shooting guard Elena Delle Donne, and Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden. Along each route, the participants were greeted by other celebrity guests, musical performances, and cheering crowds. The race concluded when all three of the routes unified at the Opening Ceremony of the 2015 Special Olympics in Los Angeles. As Olympic figure-skater Michelle Kwan said of the relay, "[It is] a run that not only touched every state in the union, every corner of this country, but also engaged and inspired every American."

A major aspect of the race was the #PassTheFlame hashtag, which raised awareness and encouraged engagement as it helped participants to document their journey across all social media channels. In addition, the hashtag was used in TV spots and online videos featuring Special Olympics athletes that illustrated the impact of the relay to over ten million viewers.

As its primary partner, Bank of America also played a role in the success of the race; as the presenting sponsor of the relay, it provided vital funding and volunteer support from its employees. The company was also able to draw on its countless connections to local communities throughout the country to encourage both participation and donations and bring the message of unity to an immensely large audience.

Not only was the Unified Relay a success in that it raised over 1.6 million dollars for The Special Olympics, it reaffirmed Bank of America's commitment to inclusion and diversity in the workplace. The brand further demonstrated this by featuring Bank of America employee and Special Olympics athlete Kenny Jones in one of the most popular #PassTheFlame commercials. In a world where judgment and ignorance is widespread, Bank of America's partnership with The Special Olympics and its dedication to both equality in hiring and supporting the differently abled community is very refreshing.
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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Toys "R" Us & Alex's Lemonade Stand: Fighting Pediatric Cancer

Alexandra Scott was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at the age of one. After four years of fighting the disease, her tenacious spirit led her to create her own lemonade stand to raise money and help other children with pediatric cancer. The project began as an annual event on her family's front lawn, raising over a million dollars for the cause over a four-year span, until Scott tragically passed away at the age of eight. Her parents built on their daughter's dream by creating the nonprofit Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer in hopes of assisting children suffering from the disease through raising funds for research, treatments, and cures. ALSF has certainly reached its goal since its conception in 2005, raising over a hundred million dollars for research projects, travel programs for families of kids receiving treatment, and other vital resources including a children's book to help promote awareness and understanding of cancer and its effects.

Toys "R" Us began its partnership with ALSF in 2011, and its campaign continues to occur on an annual basis. Over the past five years, the company has raised both funds and awareness through various in-store and online campaigns, the most memorable of which include the utilization of the Twitter hashtag #Stir4ACure and in-store lemonade stands run by volunteers young and old. The social media aspect works to target parents while the in-store events mainly engage kids, and these two halves of the campaign work in tandem to ensure every member of the family can get involved.

Through this partnership, Toys "R" Us affirmed its commitment to children and made an incredible difference in the world. The company raised over three million dollars in the first year alone, marking the first time a corporate partner of ALSF exceeded one million dollars in annually raised funds. I would suggest that Toys "R" Us continue this trend of using its status as one of the nation's leading toy stores to raise awareness for other child-centric charities, but it already has; its past and present partners include Save the Children, Toys for Tots, the American Society for Deaf Children, Make a Wish, and the Special Olympics, among others. This campaign in particular, however, is a perfect example of great cause marketing: the two entities' target audiences overlap, their interactive tactics for marketing this charity to their customers are meaningful, and their alignment with the foundation reinforces the brand's message of dedication to children.

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Vans & Americans for the Arts: Supporting Arts Education

For four years, the iconic shoe brand Vans and the nonprofit organization Americans for the Arts have collaborated annually to raise funds and resources for public high school art programs. Through an assortment of events including the Vans Custom Culture art competition and grant initiative, this campaign encourages and rewards self-expression through art and design while drawing attention to the importance of arts education in high school.

As Vans' target audience is teenagers and young adults with a creative streak, its effort to inspire and empower high school students through art is not only an act that betters the world at largeit is a worthwhile business endeavor that is relevant to its brand culture and message. As it said in 2014, "Nike stands for athletic performance; we stand for creative expression." It also sponsors music and art-related events and institutions including the Vans Warped Tour annual traveling rock music festival, which has been selling out since 1995, and the Laguna College of Art and Design, which has a Vans Honor Lab for art and digital media students. In order to cement its image as an arts-focused brand, Vans began its campaign alongside Americans for the Arts in 2012 in order to ensure that every American high-schooler has access to high-quality arts programs.

The Custom Culture competition encourages creativity and expression; the first 1,500 U.S.-based schools to register receive four pairs of blank canvas Vans shoes to decorate based on four designated themes of Action Sports, Music, Art, and Local Flavor. Once they have finished all four pairs, they upload photographs to the Vans website for public voting. Five finalists are selected to attend the final event, and one school is selected to receive a $50,000 grant and have its students' designs produced and sold.

Beyond the contest, ten schools across the country are selected for a need-based $2,000 grant to support their arts-related endeavors. Uses of the raised funds have varied over the years from covering transportation costs for field trips and guest speakers to purchasing state-of-the-art production facilities and dance studios.

Vans' strategic partnership with Americans for the Arts and its unique annual campaign to raise awareness and funds for public art education is an ideal fit in that it both strengthens its brand culture and allows it to achieve its stated vision of ensuring that kids across the nation are able to learn about the vast and vital world of art.
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Monday, March 21, 2016

Massage Envy & The Arthritis Foundation: Providing Relief for People with Arthritis

Massage Envy Spa, an aptly-named chain that has been referred to as the Wal-Mart of the massage industry, has a niche market of customers who suffer from chronic pain and look to them for regular relief. The company zeroed in on this market when it partnered with the Arthritis Foundation and emphasized the potential for massage therapy to control and relieve arthritic symptoms. It echoed the many people with arthritis who say that massage therapy, whether it takes place in a physical therapy office or a spa, has been immensely beneficial for them in terms of relieving tension and easing sore joints and muscles as well as improving flexibility and circulation. Because arthritis is the United States' leading cause of disability and one of the most common causes of chronic pain, the brand was able to reach and assist the widest group of people possible with this focus.

The partnership spawned Healing Hands for Arthritis, a one-day event that started in 2010 and continues to occur on a yearly basis. Massage Envy generously gives $10 from every one-hour massage and facial to the foundation, collectively raising over four million dollars in a five-year span to fund research for an arthritis cure and provide valuable resources for sufferers (who make up 50 million American adults and 300,000 American children). The donations went to vital programs including juvenile arthritis camps for children with the disease, funded patient toolkits created specifically for newly-diagnosed patients, and supported advocacy for legislation to ensure that all sufferers of arthritis have access to health care and treatment.

Through strategic collaboration based on an overlapping goal of providing relief, comfort, and hope to those with arthritis, Massage Envy and the Arthritis Foundation managed to help individuals while raising awareness of their chosen cause on a larger level.
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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Uber & No Kid Hungry: "Driving" Out Child Hunger

Uber, the world's most popular ride-sharing service, tapped into its network of thousands of riders to help feed starving children across the country during the 2014 holiday season. Through a partnership with No Kid Hungry, the company aimed to raise enough money to fund three million meals - and ended up raising enough to fund five million. The success of this campaign is due to the strategic multifaceted approach that Uber took to ensure that it reached its goal as well as the work done by No Kid Hungry itself.

As No Kid Hungry shares in its mission statement, one in five American children deals with hunger, and their families are in need of resources ranging from food itself to education about nutrition and cooking healthy meals. No Kid Hungry helps by connecting children to various nutrition programs, including its own Cooking Matters program that teaches participants to shop strategically and responsibly, utilize nutrition information to choose the healthiest option, and cook meals with ingredients that are both accessible and wholesome.

Uber, the world's most popular ride-sharing service, made it easy for its customers to donate to this cause by adding a button to its app that easily and simultaneously processed a $5 donation and a ride request. This strategy made it impossible for Uber users to miss the button, as the app itself is required to request a ride. While this donate button was highly successful on its own, Uber took the campaign a step further by hosting UberLUNCH in ten different cities throughout the United States in order to raise additional funds. UberLUNCH took on the form of a pop-up event, allowing customers to place lunch orders from participating chefs and restaurants and have it delivered straight to them via Uber. Of course, 100% of the money spent went directly to No Kid Hungry.

By thinking outside the box to integrate its service with the relevant issue of food and playing on the success of its app by allowing people to donate while they requested a ride, Uber helped to change the lives of five million hungry children. Uber's strategic campaign with No Kid Hungry combined elements of the company's strengths and the charity's goal, leading to success in terms of both awareness and fundraising.
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Doritos & It Gets Better: Taking a Stand for LGBT Youth

One of my favorite collaborations in recent memory was the unlikely union of a snack food company and a charity for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Doritos utilized its worldwide popularity to raise over a hundred thousand dollars for the It Gets Better Project, a charity whose funds go to providing LGBT youth with life-changing messages of hope and support as well as access to vital resources. The company and charity have overlapping target audiences - namely, millennials - which made the partnership a perfect fit. Despite pushback from a minority of older customers who opposed the open display of advocacy for gay marriage and transgender rights, the campaign was a great success in that it both illustrated Doritos' commitment to fight for equality and helped the It Gets Better Project to spread its message.

In the fall of 2015, the chip company shared on social media that anyone who donated ten dollars to the non-profit through a special link would receive a limited-edition bag of rainbow-colored, pride flag-inspired Doritos while supplies lasted. This clever incentive prompted thousands to donate and share their snack on social media once their personalized box arrived, ensuring that the display of support would be spread throughout Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

While this campaign was relatively simple, it was arguably brilliant. From the exclusive nature of the multi-colored chips to the impactful show of acceptance for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Doritos managed to strategically affirm its socially-conscious image to reach the millennial market while inspiring hope among LGBT youth and their supporters. As Brett Peters, spokesman for the It Gets Better Project, told AdWeek: "A young LGBT person seeing that their favorite chip is on their side will show them that they have friends in more places than they know."
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Monday, February 29, 2016

Warby Parker & VisionSpring: Expanding Access to Eyecare

Warby Parker, a prescription eyewear and sunglass company specializing in fashionable frames, is perhaps most well-known for its unique Home-Try On Program. In the interest of helping the consumer find the perfect pair, Warby Parker allows buyers to choose up to 5 different frames on its online store and order them to be shipped to their home for free. The company covers return shipping as well, so you can keep your favorite pair and return the rest at no charge. If you're paralyzed by choice and need a second opinion, you can post pictures of yourself in the glasses with the hashtag #WarbyHomeTryOn and the brand's Instagram account will help you make your decision. Between this consumer-friendly process and its social media supplement, Warby Parker has successfully wooed customers all around the world.

However, Warby Parker's innovation doesn't end at its business model. Its revolutionary partnership with VisionSpring, which began in 2012, has changed the lives of millions around the world through their collaborative buy-a-pair, give-a-pair program.  For every pair of glasses that Warby Parker sells, it donates a pair to VisionSpring, who then trains workers in over 35 developing countries to give basic eye exams and to sell the glasses at affordable prices to ensure that they are equally distributed and that local economies remain stable. While the main goal of this program is to provide glasses to those who need them, it has other benefits as well, including creating employment opportunities and spreading the word about eye health and the necessity for eye exams.

Warby Parker has strategically and successfully aligned its business goal (providing a wide range of stylish glasses at an affordable price) with its chosen charitable cause (distributing glasses to those in need). Its core company belief that "everyone deserves the right to see" ties the two together, leaving a seamless message that resonates with its consumers and a powerfully impactful program that improves the quality of life for those in developing countries.
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Saturday, February 20, 2016

What is Cause Marketing?

Before I begin posting examples of successful partnerships and campaigns that challenge the notion that marketing in itself is an innately harmful practice with no redeeming qualities, I want to introduce the concept of cause marketing and explain its significance. Cause marketing involves a mutually beneficial partnership between a charitable organization or a certain cause and a for-profit business. When strategically utilized, this relationship can bring value to brands while simultaneously raising awareness about a relevant charity or cause.

As shown by multiple studies, consumers continually prefer brands and companies that have a cause-related relationship and, when deciding between cause-aligned brands and brands that are unaffiliated with charities, they tend to choose the more altruistic ones. If brands avoid standing for a cause that aligns with their values, their customers will very likely turn to their competitors with charitable connections.

Consumers also favor brands that make an effort to connect a certain cause to their brand. Rather than just arbitrarily choosing a buzzworthy cause, brands should strategically select charities that complement and align with their existing image to strike a chord with their audience. A great example of this is Coca-Cola taking their timeless advertisements starring their unofficial polar bear mascots and turning them into a cause marketing campaign to raise both awareness and $2 million to preserve the bears' habitat. Because Coca-Cola has been associated with polar bears since the launch of their first bear-themed advertisement in 1922, this partnership made sense to consumers and the affiliation between the two was both strong and obvious. Through Coca-Cola's usage of their own memorable advertisements combined with a plea to save the animals and their home, they simultaneously connected with their audience in a significant way and made a substantial difference in the world at large.

In addition to enhancing brand image and building a strong customer base, cause marketing and charity co-branding can familiarize the everyday consumer with issues that had previously been under their radar. For example, Starbucks built upon their existing relationship with coffee-growing communities in Africa by partnering with (RED) and associating their brand with World AIDS Day and the fight to end the disease that plagues African citizens. Through a simple donation of 10 cents per cup of coffee sold in their stores, they simultaneously raised $12 million and increased consumer awareness of the need for HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment across the globe. By emphasizing their company's connection to coffee-producing African communities and making an effort to change the lives of those who create their product, Starbucks both strengthened their own image and used their platform to inform their customers of a critically underfunded global cause.

In sum, cause marketing can help brands enhance their own image and attract loyal customers while magnifying both reach and impact for their chosen charity. While some may argue that marketing exists only to benefit companies and to manipulate consumers, the truth is that, when put into practice thoughtfully and effectively, marketing can be used to improve the world at large and bring attention to issues that deserve the spotlight.
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