Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Red in the face?

I'm a big proponent of cause marketing. We live in a branded culture and most consumers don't mind one bit. I think big companies are uniquely positioned to champion causes that make sense for their brands and connect with their consumers. We spend all day with our favorite brands, so why not learn something from the back of a cereal box, save those soup can labels for our schools or reach for the coffee brand that invests in growers' communities? There is a real opportunity raise awareness and funds for worthy causes, and plenty of companies have done quite well doing good.

But what if a brand spends a whole lot more money talking about all the good they're doing? How will consumers react? Ad Age raises the possibility of a consumer backlash against the Red campaign, which is supposed to be raising money to battle AIDS in Africa. Powerhouse brands like the Gap, Motorola and Apple have spent over $100 million pushing Red, and it's not just Bono behind the effort: celebrities from Oprah to Chris Rock to Christy Turlington have promoted the cause.

You'd expect the cash raised to be pretty significant, right? Well, according to Ad Age, just $18 million has been raised worldwide. Kind of a drop in the bucket. Do consumers care? They're not going to stop consuming altogether, but will they become more cynical, losing respect for companies who treat cause marketing as more campaign than commitment?

I'm curious, do you shop for brands that claim to give back? Which brands do you believe have a real commitment to a cause? Is there a particular cause that connects with you?