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Cause vs. Brand: Who Wins?
By: Maryann Fabian
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“You can’t guilt people to give. It has to be about opportunity. I had to find a way to get real people, selfish people like me, to give.” So says Scott Harrison, the founder of charity: water and #10 on Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business 2013. If that’s the case, then brands are finding lots of ways to sneak charitable “opportunity” into their marketing. And, sometimes, the brand even wins out.

Let’s start with the good, avoid the over-done pink, and end with the awkward.

Maybe this is why they’re called liquid courage? Several adult beverage brands have this cause marketing thing down pat. Sam Adams is one of dozens of national and local brewers that formed Ales for ALS. Barefoot Wines has been working to keep beaches clean and “barefoot friendly” with the Surfrider Foundation for the past 20 years. Flipflop Wines donates a pair of sandals through Soles4Souls for every bottle sold.

This one, however, almost sounds like begging — or bribing: Straight Talk, the wireless carrier, will donate $1 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for every shopper who just spends one minute with them at Walmart this Saturday (or share this video to donate). Hey, it is a competitive market and your time is valuable.

Walgreen’s is using a charity tie-in as part of its new campaign to promote flu shots. With Get A Shot, Give A Shot, every immunization given at Walgreen’s is matched with a donation of up to $500,000 to the United Nations Shot@Life Campaign for children (the cost of 1.35 million polio and 1.35 million measles vaccines).

Flu shots are big business for Walgreen’s. Their pharmacists gave 6.9 million shots during last year’s flu season — 1.4 million more than the year before, which helped to account for a very healthy fourth quarter and $6.15 billion dollars in January sales. Just nevermind the bad PR that said it was not, uhh, the shot in the arm many needed to stay well. The CDC reported that last year’s flu shot “barely worked in people 65 and older,” or was considered effective in only 9 percent of cases. But maybe you’ll feel better knowing you helped to save a life in Africa.

And lastly, the awkward. Depends has been asking celebrities to hawk their product "for charity" for over a year now (the charity is not mentioned on TV, a miss). You know the premise: You don’t need to wear Depends — just try them on. Actress Lisa Rinna was the brave one who started the series, reportedly for a $225,000 donation to Dress for Success. Just try them, you’ll like them? Well, that depends. It might seem a little cringeworthy now, but maybe after we’ve all had a couple glasses of that liquid courage…

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About the Author
Maryann Fabian is a copywriter who has crafted the voice of some of this country's best brands.
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