Cause-Related Marketing

Rite Aid Healthwashes Cigarette Sales

Pharmacy Brand SmokesThe Rite Aid drug store chain announced that it is once again teaming with the American Heart Association (AHA) to promote AHA's "Go Red for Women" campaign. Rite Aid collects donations of one dollar or more from customers in exchange for little red paper dresses that contain detachable coupons for merchandise. Rite Aid issued a press release touting the campaign and their free "heart health guide" that contains advice on how to prevent heart disease. Absent from the promotion and the press release, and kept quiet by AHA, is the fact that Rite Aid contributes mightily to causing heart disease in women by selling cigarettes.

Why Facts No Longer Matter

nothinkingA recent PRWatch story discussed how corporations are increasingly turning to cause marketing to get around people's ability to tune out their daily deluge of advertising. Cause marketing, or "affinity marketing," is a sophisticated public relations strategy in which a corporation allies itself with a cause that evokes strong emotions in targeted consumers, like curing cancer, alleviating poverty, feeding the hungry, helping the environment or saving helpless animals. The relationship avails the company of a more effective way to grab the attention of their audience, by telling them compelling stories linked to the cause, for example tales of survival, loss, strength, good works, etc. Once the company gets your attention, it links its name and brands to the positive emotions generates by the cause. The company then leverages that emotion to get you to buy the stuff they've linked to the cause -- and improve its corporate image.

Cause marketing works, which is why its use is spreading like wildfire. The operative word that the whole idea turns on is "emotion," because the ability to manipulate people depends completely on generating an emotional connection that the company can exploit.

Water: The Newest Wave of Corporate "Social Responsibility"

Even critics of World Water Week, held annually in Stockholm, Sweden, agree that it's an important forum where thousands of people working on water issues share information.

This year's event, held from August 16 to 22, placed special emphasis on the relationship between water and climate change. The closing statement (pdf) was literally a message to COP15, the major United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December. "Water is a key medium through which climate change impacts will be felt," it reads, adding that "water-related adaptation" should be seen as part of the solution. The statement also calls for funding "to assist vulnerable, low income countries already affected by climate change," along with longer-term adaptation efforts.

So why are there critics of World Water Week? In a word, Nestlé.

Fiat Saves the World, and Gets Ads Aired for Free

"Fiat, strapped for cash and struggling to draw attention to the Lancia, decided a few years ago to promote the brand as helping improve society," reports Aaron Patrick. So the company sponsored the Ninth World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, held in Paris in December 2008. The laureates were driven to the summit in black Lancia Deltas, and filmed by the car company as they arrived.


Cause-Related Marketing Goes to the Dogs

dog wearing glassesThe economic downturn is hitting the pet industry, too. To compete in a crowded and shrinking market, Mars' dog food brand Pedigree will buy its first-ever Super Bowl ads. But, rather than directly advertising their dog food, Pedigree will promote dog adoptions.


Greenwashing, Meet Water-Washing

Glass of waterOn December 2 and 3 in San Francisco, "international business representatives will discuss their use of water." The $1900 conference -- titled "Corporate Water Footprinting" -- gives major corporations an opportunity to "announce their new efforts to promote 'water neutrality,' the claim that they can return to local aquifers every drop of water taken for business." Speakers at



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