Posts Tagged ‘Making Money While Making a Difference’

Did you see the bit on HLN about bedbugs infesting firehouses in Albuquerque, New Mexico the other day?

What caught my attention wasn’t the bugs, which are popping up all over the place like Tea Party candidates.

Nor was it the fact that the Firefighter Wives Auxillary Association went to a national high end mattress company and asked them donate 170 mattresses to the firestations, which they did. (You can read the whole story here.)

What hooked me was that the mattress company has requested to remain anonymous.

That’s right — anonymous!

As some of you might know, I co-authored a book with Dr. Richard Steckel about cause related marketing titled “Making Money While Making a Difference: How to Profit with a Nonprofit Partner.”

The entire book is about the positive bottom line benefits of cause-related marketing, an absolute win-win when done right, and while I wrote it over a decade ago, I’m pretty sure I didn’t put in anything about the benefits of anonymous donations.

BECAUSE THERE ARE NONE! At least not to marketing or sales. There are the tax benefits, of course, which must be monumental for 170 mattresses. And as my wife suggested, there may be a religious angle, which I guess would be good for your soul and future accommodations in whichever afterlife you may believe in.

But you have to agree that it’s an unusual move, in this day and age when organizations from NASA to Oakley were falling all over themselves to milk the publicity from helping out the Chilean miners. (Can you say $450 sunglasses, or $41 Million in media exposure?)

I’m still dumbfounded by it. Companies are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to, well, make money while making a difference. Opportunities like this one.

Which leads me to wonder, can someone please explain whether I’m right, or whether I’ve become so jaded that I can’t see an act of charity as anything other than a missed marketing opportunity?

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Back on July 10th, in my post “Is Obama Going To The Dogs?” I wrote about the Presidential Pup website where the AKC was holding an election to decide which dog the Obama girls should get. I wrote in glowing terms about what I thought was an excellent and timely marketing partnership.

And a successful one… at least for the AKC. Since they started, there have been 42,000 votes and a clear spike in traffic. According to Quantcast, site visits to AKC.org, which were hovering around 2.5 million before the start of the promotion at the beginning of July rose sharply over that month to a high of about 2.8 million in early August, only to drop again to their pre-promotion level by late August.

By the way, the Poodle won the election.

So when President-elect Obama mentioned his canine promise to his girls in his acceptance speech, I fully expected there to be some connection to the AKC partnership, at least in the days ahead.

Empathetically, I thought, if I were the AKC marketing director, and Obama didn’t mention our partnership at this global-attention focal point, I’d feel a bit ripped off. Talk about a missed opportunity. The whole reason to do a marketing partnership like that with a highly public cause is for the attention it brings. Even more problematic, he mentioned shelter dogs, not exactly the territory the AKC tends to pee in.

I went to the Obama site. Nothing about the AKC and the Presidential Pup site.

I just spent the last week at Ad:Tech listening to all the ways in which the Obama campaign has rewritten the rules of online marketing. According to Shelly Lazarus, Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy Mather Worldwide, the Obama campaign is the “best CRM campaign that has ever been run.”  For the Obama campaign to be involved in a marketing partnership and not to mention it on their site isn’t a mistake, it’s an impossibility.

So then I went to the Presidential Pup site at the AKC.  The site landing pages were updated on November 5th to reflect Obama’s victory and discuss his public reiteration of his promise to his girls. The site discusses the voting, and goes on to say “We hope the Obamas consider the survey results,” said AKC Spokesperson Lisa Peterson.

“We hope”?  “Considers”?  That didn’t exactly sound like a partnership to me, and it certainly didn’t sound like the tone of the original site.

Somebody at the AKC is definitely on the ball, though. In addition to the speed with which they updated their landing page, the page has a picture of two adorable poodle pups with the headline “A Pair of Poodles for Pennsylvania Avenue” and the caption which partially reads “A pair of six-week-old Toy Poodle puppies rescued by Flora’s Pet Project/Poodle Rescue Connecticut visited the American Kennel Club offices in Manhattan today to be photographed in hopes of catching the attention of the Obama family. The pups will be available for new homes in early January. They can be adopted by contacting…”

That’s great marketing. Obama specifically mentioned shelter dogs, so the AKC adds the “rescue dog” element to make their efforts more relevant. (As I recall, there was no mention of rescue dogs the first time around.)

They’re also spreading a wide net to attract attention. They made sure to mention that it was reported that Veep-Elect Biden has said his wife told him that if he got the vice presidency and got elected, he could get a dog. This too is good internet marketing, adding additional key words and relevance;  last time, they made sure they got the McCains in the story as well.

The site goes on to say “No matter what breed the Obamas or Bidens choose, the AKC hopes they can assist both families. “I would be happy to personally assist Obama and Biden in identifying a responsible breeder if they are looking for a puppy,” said AKC President & CEO Dennis Sprung”

The first site really made it seem like the Obama’s were along for the ride.  But now, it’s clear that wasn’t the case.

Nearly a decade ago, in our book, Making Money While Making a Difference, Dr. Richard Steckel and I wrote about the dangers of misleading the public when it comes to cause related marketing.  It’s only gotten worse since.  When you pretend to be helping a cause or when you aid and abet consumers in reaching the conclusion that you are aligned with a cause or group when you are really just trying to cash in on their publicity, you are in danger of a serious, negative backlash.

If the AKC were aligned with Obama, wouldn’t he have mentioned it in one of his long and involved post-acceptance speech statements about the promised pooch?

If this were the marketing partnership it seemed to be, then wouldn’t Obama have mentioned it at least once during the many times he’s had to address this overwhelmingly important issue since winning the nomination?

It’s not his fault if the issue keeps coming up: I mean, our economy is in the tank, the mid-East is loping towards a meltdown, attack dog Rahm Emanuel is the chief of staff of the face of change, and the press keeps wasting our time on shaggy dog stories.

Oh wait, so am I.

No, I’m not.

According to Wikipedia, “Shaggy dog stories play upon the audience’s preconceptions of the art of joke telling. The audience listens to the story with certain expectations, which are either simply not met or met in some entirely unexpected manner.” While I don’t claim that the AKC intended to amuse us, I do think their whole presidential pup story is a bad joke with utterly unmet expectations and an unexpected conclusion.

I’m writing about a marketing disconnect. A missed opportunity. Or, more likely, a misleading one. Just another example of misleadership, this one on the part of the AKC.

What do you think?  Can someone please explain to me whether the AKC is practicing good marketing or misleadership?