Adding To The Noise

A critical view of new media, new technology and new marketing.

Cause Marketing Or Crisis Response?

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Right now there is a company that is working with the government to help natural wildlife areas and minimize the environmental impact of pollution. They have engaged more than 2,500 people in this effort by working with emergency preparedness and environmental protection staff from five states and utilizing their employees labor and technical expertise.

They have organized major protection efforts with a significant community outreach plan with leaders from fishing associations, local businesses, parks, wildlife and environmental organizations, educational institutions, medical/emergency establishments and news media. This company is coordinating, training and deploying thousands of volunteers who are offering their help. This sounds like an enormous cause marketing effort except that it is in fact describing BP’s response to the environmental crisis they created.

Cause marketing is defined as aligning the power of a company’s brand, marketing and people with a cause’s brand and assets to create shareholder and social value by publicly communicating values. BP’s cleanup efforts certainly meet these requirements as they seek to minimize the environmental impact of the oil spill. Except in this case they are trying to minimize shareholder loss. If this was a more “natural disaster” their efforts may be applauded by the community and lauded by the business community.

What is the line between crisis and cause? Could responding well to a crisis (even one you’ve caused) ever be viewed as positive and actually help a brand’s image? Is doing the right thing always a planned marketing effort?

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Author: Keith A. Quesenberry

Marketing Professor with Industry Experience

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