Celebrity, Media Outreach And Events Oh My!

Three PR techniques that can be very powerful are celebrity, media outreach and events. There is one campaign that used both very well in its launch. Product RED is a huge cause project created by Bono and Bobby Shriver that raises money for the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria by donating a portion of profits from a range of branded products. American Express, Converse, Giorgio Armani and Gap were the initial partners in the program. GAP ran a lot of advertising surrounding the launch, but they also used a lot of media outreach for a cause made newsworthy because of all the celebrity support. Penelope Cruz, Jennifer Garner, Chris Rock, Maria Shriver and Steven Spielberg all promoted and represented various Product RED goods. For the launch event Bono, Winfrey and other celebrities shopped in downtown Chicago in an effort to enlist support followed by a full episode of The Oprah Winfrey show dedicated to the cause campaign.

But you don’t need celebrities to have a powerful PR campaign. General Mills is using a contest to make their cause campaign newsworthy. “My Hometown Helper” is designed to link its Hamburger Helper brand to community involvement. In 2006 it gave $133,000 in grants to 33 towns and cities for various projects from installing lights for a football field, cleaning up a local river and purchasing ambulance equipment. It is a national story because of the contest. Applicants are asked to write a short essay describing how the grant would help with a community project. Awards range from $500 to $15,000. But the company also picked up press coverage in small communities such as Franklin, PA, whose newspaper ran a feature story about the local Rotarians renovating a theater giving credit to Hamburger Helper for the purchase of the chairs by participation in the company’s My Hometown Helper program.

Another way to garner PR attention is simply by aligning yourself with a hot news topic. Citizens Financial Group may be accused of green washing, but they are picking up attention for their new program called Green$ense which rewards customers who use their debit cards instead of writing checks. It started out refunded 10 cents for each electronic payment they make, up to $10 per month and $120 per year, but the company plans to double these rewards. Besides simply being green, this program is also attractive because it invites consumer participation. People are attracted to small, everyday things they can do like reducing paper transactions that can have a big impact on the environment. To the eco-consumer and eco-press anything tied to green will get attention.

How can you use these tactics to grow your brand?

Can Millennials Save Us Through Cause Marketing?

Cone, Inc. specializes in cause marketing and has released some interesting information on important role of “Millennials” in corporate social responsibility. They are considerably more active in new media forums when it comes to learning about and supporting causes, but are also more receptive to cause marketing and are more likely to act. After hearing about a corporate-charitable partnership 88% would be likely to switch from one brand to another brand if the other brand is associated with a good cause (compared to an average of  79% for all adults). In addition, 51% have bought a cause-related product or service in the last year (compared to 38% for all adults). They also are more likely to donate their money, participate in events and volunteer compared to all adults.

This Millennial bent toward social cause becomes even more apparent when you compare it to the other generation’s attitudes. Baby Boomers are characterized as the “me” generation and are described as being narcissistic, intellectual and judgmental. Gen Xers became disillusioned cynics who are cautious and skeptical, alienated, searching for self and confrontational. In contrast, Millennials are seen as optimistic and confident achievers. They are disciplined and accepting of authority, well-educated, competitive, upbeat and open-minded.

How will this impact cause marketing? I think it will improve, grow and expand cause marketing efforts. Obviously this is the generation more open to and looking for social benefits. But cause marketing efforts will have to expand beyond traditional media and talk to Millennials the way they are used to talking. This is something Pepsi has already started with the Pepsi Refresh project by ditching their Super Bowl ads for a social marketing plan.

Instead of spending millions on commercials for this past year’s game, Pepsi put its money in the Refresh Project, an online cause marketing campaign that asks readers how the company should give away its grant money (Schwartz, 2010).

The cool thing about Pepsi Refresh for Millennials is that it takes advantage of their social media usage. People all over the web are spreading the word about the campaign encouraging others to vote for their cause via the likes of Twitter and Facebook.