[Video] Three Tips for Planning Your Brand’s Cause-Related Marketing

November 1, 2022

Hi everyone. Welcome to Two Minutes of Advice today from Sunwest. So as we enter the holiday season, a lot of brands are thinking about their cause-related marketing programs, their give-back programs, their “if you buy this, we’ll donate this to a charity of choice.” Interesting situation recently for a brand called Crumbl Cookies. Looking back a little bit, their promotion was in October around Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

They decided that an entire week’s lineup of cookies was going to be pink-themed in honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month and in honor of the owner’s grandmother who had just tragically passed away from breast cancer. Problem was, some of their friends and fans noticed that there was no donation element, no percentage of sales, no cash going to breast cancer research or prevention. And Crumbl got called out on social media. Thankfully, after thinking about it and listening to their customers, they came back and said that 10% of the week’s proceeds would go to three different organizations that are working to prevent and end breast cancer. The problem was, is that the damage was done.

So, as for-profit corporations and their corporate social responsibility programs, as nonprofits, as private family foundations think about what they’re doing here coming up for the holidays, three big lessons to keep in mind.

First and foremost, think it through. If you’re going to do something good to bring awareness, make sure that there aren’t any unintended consequences that could make it backfire. In this case, Crumbl was accused of “pinkwashing,” or trying to gain reputational benefit from connecting its brand to breast cancer prevention without putting its money where its mouth is. We’ve seen similar instances around sustainability or protecting the environment. Of course, they call that greenwashing. So, number one, think it through.

Number two: If finances are a concern, meaning you’re just not sure under this current state of the economy whether you’re going to have the money to make the donation, when in doubt, leave it out. It is far better than to not try to gain goodwill or a reputational benefit by hitching your wagon, so to speak, from a brand perspective to a good cause if you’re not going to be able to put your money where your mouth is.

And number three – and this kind of relates to thinking it through – if you’re going to have to apologize anyway, if there is a risk of coming back at the end and making a donation that you didn’t intend to do, eating the crow and having the bad reputational impact or the BBs in your reputational iceberg hit, far better to make the donation at the beginning, to be generous, to appear magnanimous, and to “do the right thing.” If you’re going to have to come back at the end and apologize anyway, you might as well do the right thing at the very beginning. And that’s Two Minutes of Advice today from Sunwest.