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Holiday Cause Marketing Brings Cheers, Jeers

Posted by: Joe Waters on 12/26/2012

Cause Marketing | Holiday Promotions

Several of the holiday cause promotions I've seen this year offer as much education on cause marketing as they do inspiration on why the holiday season should be part of every cause marketer's marketing plan.

NYC Hotel Partners with City Harvest for Gingerbread Creation Contest

Cheer: Norma's restaurant in The Parker Meridien in New York City is known for its sumptuous brunch with menu items such as Irresistible Banana-Macadamia Nut Flap Jacks with Whipped Banana Brown Sugar Butter. For the past four years, the hotel has held an annual gingerbread creation contest with displays in the lobby. When you donate a dollar in Norma's you get a vote to pick the winner. It all benefits City Harvest, a food rescue in the heart of the city.

Jeer: This fundraiser is opt-out (check out the insert I got with my menu), which means Norma's automatically adds a dollar - per person - to your bill unless you play Scrooge and tell them no. While this is a great way to raise money, taking without asking is just wrong. And because the waitstaff didn't even mention the fundraiser to me - and I suspect others - any potential goodwill or connection to the charity was lost. This promotion was too much about the money and marketing and too little about the cause.

Supermarket Chain Donates Meals to Food Banks with Hashtag Campaign

Cheer: Last week, global supermarket chain Lidl offered to donate five four-course Christmas dinners to food banks in Belgium for each tweet using the hashtag #luxevooriedereen, Dutch for “luxury for everyone.” Lidl donated 10,000 meals!

Jeer: The company was caught off guard as they had internally planned to donate 1,000 meals. But when the hashtag went viral, Lidl had to significantly increase its donation. The company did the right thing, but since they weren't prepared social media users called them "naive" and encouraged followers to retweet the hashtag to drive up the total and "strike back at corporate greed." Lidl could have avoided the backlash by expecting for the unexpected and being clear on their maximum donation.

Montblanc Supports Texas Children's Cancer Center with Bracelet

Cheer: This is a simple purchase-triggered promotion that donates $50 when you purchase this silver and black bracelet with the center's logo. This holiday season, you can purchase the bracelet for the adult parent of a cancer patient.

Jeer: I understand that Montblanc makes high quality stuff, but the $350 price tag on this bracelet seems steep. Why not make a $50 bracelet with ALL the proceeds going to the cancer center? Parents don't need a fancy bracelet with the hospital's logo on it. Just donate the $350. You could say this about any cause product, but a luxury item like this puts the product way out in front of the cause.

I have no doubt that the marketers behind all three of these holiday cause marketing partnerships had good intentions. They don't belong on the naughty list, nor do they deserve coal this holiday season. But I can see Santa wagging his finger. Nonprofits and companies should ask before taking, think about the gifts they are giving and remember it's the season of giving.

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About For Momentum Guest Blogger Joe Waters

Joe Waters blogs on cause marketing at
He is the co-author of Cause Marketing for Dummies
and QR Codes For Dummies.

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