Is Cause Marketing Clutter a Danger?

My wife and I visited three different stores recently, all part of national chains. The first stop was Toys R Us. When we were paying for our purchase, the sales associate mumbled something about donating to autism. We declined his less than convincing appeal. Next stop: Lowe’s. At the checkout counter was another invitation to donate $1. One more stop to make, a visit to Kmart and a third request to donate a dollar to a cause. I confess that I cannot the specific causes Lowe’s and Kmart were supporting, but when I went to their websites and Facebook pages to see if they were promoting the cause support, there was no information to be found. Big mistake! Maximize the potential of an in-store fundraising effort by letting persons in your community know what you are doing.

Three stores, three causes, three competitors for the emotions and dollars of the consumer. One of the strengths of cause-related marketing is that a sponsor can align itself with a charity or nonprofit that resonates with the sponsor’s target market. Unfortunately, the situation that I observed recently suggests that the impact of cause marketing could go the way of media advertising, where heavy message clutter makes it difficult to get through to an audience and reduces effectiveness of communications. I do not fault the retailers for creating cause marketing campaigns. In fact, I applaud them. Kudos to these companies for committing resources to generate exposure and funds for their cause partners.

A key to successful cause marketing campaigns, or any sponsorship for that matter, is activating marketing programs around the association with the cause. The standard donate-a-dollar promotions are good concepts because they allow consumers to help support a cause. However, too many promotions being executed at the same time can leave consumers weary from multiple requests to help different causes. Should cause marketing campaigns be scheduled being mindful of a timetable for cause promotions featuring competitors? It is not essential, nor will it guarantee success of a cause marketing campaign. However, cause marketing fatigue is possible when consumers are being asked at seemingly every store to do their part to support the cause. Cause marketing works, but be strategic in the timing of cause promotions so that its potential impact is not hindered or even negated by the efforts of other cause sponsors to help their nonprofit partners.

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