Is three a crowd?

Picture this.  You’re standing in the middle of Home Outfitters and you’re on a mission.  Today is the day that you finally drop $400 on that gorgeous KitchenAid mixer that you have been fantasizing about for the last twelve months.  You’ve had more than enough time to do your research and know exactly what you’re looking for.  Although there are twenty-one colours to choose from if you ordered online, you have decided to choose between the red, black, chrome and white models available at most retail outlets.  At the end of the day, the colour doesn’t really matter to you.  As you arrive in the KitchenAid isle you see them.  Red, black, chrome and white models (all in stock!) present themselves.  But wait.  What’s this beautiful pink colour?  Upon further inspection you read “Cook for the Cure” and notice the Breast Cancer Foundation ribbon on the package.  Immediately you realize that if you purchase the pink model you will also be joining the fight against breast cancer.  Without hesitating you pick up the pink mixer and head to the check-out.  It was an easy decision and a win-win.  Who doesn’t want to support the fight against breast cancer?

Over the last several years, the relationship between the retailer and the consumer has expanded to include a new friend – the charity.  Partnerships between private sector organizations and notable causes have continued to develop with the goal of promoting eachother in carefully structured commercial ventures designed to enhance their financial viability.  These relationships can prove highly effective and contribute to building a positive image the business while helping a charity gain much needed visibility (Fromherz, 2006).  When looking at the consumer goods sector and specific campaigns like “Cook for the Cure”, there is no question that visibility is strong and extremely powerful for both KitchenAid and the Breast Cancer Foundation.  Cause-related marketing is a great way for organizations to increase their sales while demonstrating corporate social responsibility (Rentschler & Wood, 2001).

However, the benefits of cause-related marketing extend well beyond the bottom line.  Countless surveys and articles have linked the benefits of employers engaging in cause-related marketing activities with employee morale and productivity.  In fact, 92% of Americans think it is important for their companies to make charitable contributions or donate products and/or services to nonprofit organizations in the community (Fromherz, 2006).  Happy employees, thriving charities and increased profit margins – is there a downside?  If executed in the right way, absolutely not.

With online communities and social media continuing to grow in popularity, the appeal of cause-related marketing is continuing to intensify amoung organizations.  In the past, a consumer would have to walk into your retail location to learn of your charitable commitment.  Today, it is easier than ever, and certainly more cost effective, for companies to leverage their charitable giving as part of their marketing strategy and use it to attract new customers.  Because of new media and online communities, businesses no longer need to set aside a large marketing budget or invest in four weeks of Television spots to leverage their charitable commitment.  Whether it’s an interaction with a charity on Twitter or commenting on a Facebook page, the online space has taken cause-related marketing to the next level.

Crowd-funding sites are another example of online public spaces where people can discuss matters of common interest and support causes.  These sites make possible interaction that is not based on intimacy, but instead connects strangers (Bennett, Grossberg, & Morris, 2005).  Crowd-funding is a model that has great potential of revolutionizing the way charities fundraise.  In fact,  it is evident that the crowd-funding model is poised not just to take advantage of, but also to overtake what used to comprise certain segments of broad-based fundraising (e.g., personalized letter solicitations) (Luka, 2012).  The ease of engagement and sense of accomplishment that these sites foster is undeniable.

(Pursuit, 2012)

(Pursuit, 2012)

Pursuit, a micro funding platform for Canadian Athletes, is giving fans a way to directly support our nation’s rising stars (Pursuit, 2012).  Donors are provided with a variety of engagement options depending on their level of donation.  In some cases, your donation can even result in one-on-one time with the athlete themselves.  Now the important question is would you be equally inclined to donate to an athlete if this crowd-funding site didn’t exist and you couldn’t see the campaign’s progress in real-time or see how your personal donation was making a difference?  Probably not.

The moral of this story?  You can’t say no to a pink KitchenAid mixer.  Not exactly.  But whether it’s a retailer, consumer, charity relationship or a crowd coming together to support a cause and achieve a specific goal, three is never a crowd.

References:

Bennett, T., Grossberg, L., & Morris, M. (2005). New Keywords: A Revised Vocabulary of Culture and Society. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Fromherz, K. (2006, March 15). Cause-Related Marketing. American Nurseryman , 46-49.

Jackson, J. D., Nielsen, G. M., & Hsu, Y. (2011). Mediated Society: A Critical Sociology of Media. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Luka, M. E. (2012). Media production in flux: crowdfunding to the rescue. Journal of Mobile Media , 6 (3).

microryza. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2013, from Follow & Fund Scientific Research: https://www.microryza.com/

Pursuit. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2013, from Pursuit is a micro funding platform for canadian athletes: https://pursu.it/

Rentschler, R., & Wood, G. (2001). Cause Related Marketing. Services Marketing Quarterly , 22 (1), 57-69.

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About Stephanie

Marketing and Communications Professional, BBA, MA (Communication), Dancer, Travel Enthusiast, Disney Fanatic, RunDisney Addict, Mom
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3 Responses to Is three a crowd?

  1. elizabethccross says:

    Great post, Steph. I really liked your KitchenAid comparison – I faced a similar situation myself when I was picking out one for my Mom last Christmas. The colour is definitely a big deal!

    I agree that companies, such as KitchenAid, no longer need to invest in large marketing initiatives like television spots or advertisements in newspapers because of the growth of online communities and social networks. Thanks to these online platforms, KitchenAid’s marketing is done for them by their consumers through forum posts, blog posts, online product reviews, mentions on Twitter, and word of mouth. The massive realm of online communities has transformed the way in which marketing, including cause-related marketing, functions.

    • smileysteph says:

      Thanks so much Elizabeth! Online communities certainly don’t eliminate the need for traditional marketing channels but they do provide smaller entities with the opportunity to have a much greater impact – especially in relation to cause-related marketing activities.

  2. mattdgp says:

    Hey Steph, great read. While I may not share your love of the mixer 🙂 I echo your perspective that any time a corporation gives money to a charitable cause there is good to be had. Even though the exact, true motivation of the corporation may not always be from an altruistic place. It seemed within the consumer packaged goods industry for awhile many brands were wrapping their products in pink from Country Harvest grains breads to Cottonelle toilet tissue. Again, I have little concern no matter the motivation provided the program is clear, simple and actually delivers benefit to the cause. I remember once evaluating a social media program where the brand would only donate if a certain number of “likes” were reached. There was a revolt on the page from users demanding the donation be made no matter what. Cause marketing is great – brands and companies just need to be careful in how well they deliver.

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