The 107 million Americans who tuned in to watch the Super Bowl on February 7th did not see any advertisements for Pepsi. Instead of spending $20m on a handful of 30-second spots, the firm decided to give that amount away. Under the slogan “Refresh Everything”, the Pepsi campaign asked the public to vote online for charities and community groups to receive grants ranging from $5,000 to $250,000. A few days before the game its arch-rival, Coca-Cola, was also bitten by a charitable bug. It promised to give $1 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America every time someone watched its Super Bowl ads on its Facebook page, up to a maximum of $250,000.
Other recent examples include Chase Community Giving, in which small charities competed to win $5m in donations from JPMorgan Chase, and American Express and NBC Universal’s “Shine A Light” program, which awarded a grant of $100,000 to a small business chosen through its website.
Marketing people say consumers are increasingly trying to do good as they spend. Research in 2008 by Cone, a brand consultancy, found that 79% of consumers would switch to a brand associated with a good cause, up from 66% in 1993, and that 38% have bought a product associated with a cause, compared with 20% in 1993. Rather than try to make products that can be marketed as ethical in their own right, such as “fair trade” goods, firms are increasingly trying to take an ordinary product and boost its moral credentials with what one marketing guru calls “embedded generosity”. The fad for online competitions to award the handouts also appeals to another trend, so-called “slacktivism”, whereby people are turning to the internet to give their consciences a boost without doing anything more onerous than clicking a mouse a few times.
Do you want to try something like this on a local scale? What about using direct mail to lead your customers to support your favorite cause?