Selfish Giving?

I think we can all attest to the fact that people strive to make connections, especially in today’s fast-paced world. So when a company associates itself with an issue or cause that we care about, we are immediately drawn to its product.

Cause marketing, in a nutshell, is an initiative from a for-profit company to raise awareness, money, and consumer engagement for a particular cause. This kind of marketing is a growing trend: sponsorship by major corporations is predicted to reach $1.84 billion in 2014, according to IEG’s monthly sponsorship report.

Companies have the most success when they connect with causes that are relevant to their products. Here are some examples:

Proctor and Gamble has been a champion of cause marketing, having won the 2012 Forbes Cause Marketing Halo award. Of course, being a large corporation with multiple products makes things easier. For example: one pack of Pampers equals one vaccine; Tide Loads Hope sends a mobile laundromat to disaster areas; and Dawn Everyday Wildlife campaign donates products and funds to clean oil spill areas.







General Mills’ Box Tops for Education campaign was a blowout, encouraging parents to buy its cereals and other products so kids can help raise money for their school. OfficeMax has also done its part for education, with its “Adopt a Classroom” initiative and multitude of student and teacher discounts.

Hanes donated socks to the homeless. Kellogg’s gives free breakfasts to hungry kids. TUMS fights for underfunded fire departments (which is ironic considering that TUMS – the product – fights against heartburn).

Campaigns like these are nearly endless; we could go on forever celebrating increased awareness and funding by generous corporations. With so much goodwill being spread, how could there be any critics of cause marketing? But of course, there’s always a critic.

Skeptics of seemingly caring corporations are seeing what they think is the real motive for the generosity: when a company benefits a cause, it is really just looking for more sales. If a consumer knows that that 10% of sales will be donated to cancer research, they will look at a product and say, “Sure, I’d be happy to buy that.” Yes, cancer research is being funded, but the company selling the product is making the real gains. Critics would claim that the paradox of “selfish giving” is actually true when applied to this situation.

It appears that the main targets of this skepticism are campaigns that promote social movements rather than specific organizations or causes. Materials endorsing these messages are becoming increasingly popular, mainly online. For example, Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches,” winner of multiple awards and one of the most-viewed ad videos of all time, promotes self-confidence in women. Always’ “Like a Girl” video has also gone viral and conveys a similar message. These videos do not show products and barely even display the company logo, but rather, the ideals they claim to believe in.

Is this wrong? Of course not. But critics of cause marketing would agree that by striving to increase confidence in women, Dove, Always, and other companies supporting different movements (Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl ad, “America the Beautiful,” encouraging diversity and immigration comes to mind) care more about increasing sales than about supporting these so-called ideals.

In my opinion, these skeptics need to wake up and smell the bacon. We live in a society of capitalism, where businesses are in business to make a profit. If they can make money while supporting a deserving organization, both will benefit and that’s a good thing. If a company can associate its product(s) with a popular movement or meaningful idea, then kudos! Not everyone might see things this way, but in the advertising industry we do because we understand and appreciate the power of connections. It looks like cause marketing will continue to be a powerful player in campaigns across all industries.

We want to hear YOUR opinion on this issue. Comment below or tweet us @brunetgarcia

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Innovation: the Not-So-Secret Weapon

The term “Millennial” is used to describe someone born between the years 1980 and 2000.  Other notable nicknames for this generation include Generation Y, the Echo Boomers, and the Net Generation. That last one might be the most appropriate.

As a millennial myself, I have never known a life without computers, cell phones, or the Internet. But even I can see the rapid growth of technology in global society, and the effect it’s having not only on consumers, but also on the technology companies themselves.

We are in the midst of an ongoing, silent-but-deadly war among the top technology corporations, who are all looking for new, exciting ways to win more users, more sales, and more brand recognition than their competitors. Fortunately, we (the consumers) reap all the benefits.

A majority of the top ten most valuable brands today are technology companies, Google and Apple being the top two (sidenote: Google recently overtook Apple for the #1 spot). Not far behind are Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook. These five companies boast the most ammunition and manpower in this technology war. Many times, however, they win battles through the element of surprise, showcasing tricks they’ve been hiding up their sleeves. Here are some recent examples.

Though Amazon is technically labeled as a retail company, it has experienced tremendous brand growth and is competing directly with the top technology companies. It recently released its first smartphone, the Amazon Fire. Not only does it offer typical smartphone capabilities like retina display and a high-pixel camera, the phone is also equipped with Firefly, which will cleverly drive more sales to by scanning barcodes and finding them online. Additionally, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the new Fire at a product launch event that mimicked ones held by late Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Only time will tell if the new features will be enough to allow Amazon to really compete against Apple and other Android-operating devices in the smartphone market.

Another ongoing battle in the technology war involves Facebook and its hunger to eat up other social media competitors. Facebook may not be at the top with Google and Apple, but like Amazon, it is turning into more of a giant every day. It already succeeded in obtaining Instagram, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy. Facebook had its sights set on Snapchat, which boldly turned down the offer. Now Facebook has released it’s own photo-sharing app called Slingshot, which differs from Snapchat in that it requires a photo reply to unlock an incoming photo message. Other small start-up apps with features similar to SlingShot are claiming that Facebook imitated their ideas in order to compete with Snapchat. Leave it to technology companies to complicate the competition. But in my opinion, it looks as though Snapchat, whose fun photo-sharing features are nearly irresistible, already had this win in the bag.

I could go on and on with various technology battles over the past few years- don’t even get me started on the Samsung/Apple lawsuit. But they all give us the same essential message: beating the competition requires innovative ideas. Apple created a revolution years ago, but Google has made the most of recent times with fresh initiatives that are off its beaten track.

In the advertising industry, we can relate to the tech war in many ways. We want to stand out to our audience and break through the waves of other stimuli they encounter every day. To do this, we need to represent our clients by showing consumers ideas that are new, exciting, appealing, and different. In a word: innovative.

As a millennial, it is in my coding to keep up with the latest happenings regarding the technology battle going on all around me.  At times, I like to imagine living in the world my parents grew up in, when kids would still go outside to play; television sets only had 5 channels; and drivers would pull out a map when going somewhere new. But the reality is that those days are long over. We could argue the debate on whether technology is good for society, but either way, it’s here to stay and will only grow, so we might as well use it. So we can all continue to sit back and watch the technology corporations battle it out while we wait for our next smartphone upgrade.

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Worth Fighting For

In the advertising world, when pop culture gives your brand lemons, you have to make lemonade quickly or everything could go sour.

Recently, a security tape recording of Beyonce’s sister Salonge Knowles fighting with brother-in-law Jay-Z at the Met Gala went viral. In the video, Salonge not only kicks and punches Jay-Z, but, true to female form, she throws her purse at him.

Salonge’s “golden clutch” subsequently becomes infamous on the Internet. So does the brand that made it, Anya Hindmarch, an English designer purse company.

In a stroke of genius, the Anya Hindmarch company not only made lemonade from lemons, but even added some extra sugar. Its online marketing campaign directly capitalizes on the video, claiming that the purse truly is “worth fighting for.”

Anya Hindmarch was able to take an incident that could very well have had a negative impact on the product and twist it into a clever, humorous angle to promote the product instead. This goes to show the powerful influence that pop culture has on the advertising world, and that we can only embrace it’s effects- not try to fight them.

Pop culture is a fickle monster for advertisers; we know it could have a massive effect on our brand, but we never know if it will be positive or negative. Perhaps the most precious thing a company holds dear is its reputation, because a company with a bad reputation is like sour lemonade that no one will drink.

The purse, no more than 5 inches long, retails for about $1600.  Otherwise, I would probably buy one.

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The Boys Are Back in Town

Two years after the game against Scotland, the U.S. men’s soccer team is making its way back to good ol’ Jacksonville for another friendly match. This time the boys in red, white, and blue will be playing Nigeria in their last game before heading to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

So how has Jacksonville, out of all cities, landed another soccer game?

For one thing, we had one of the largest turnouts for the U.S. men’s team of the summer.  In the game against Scotland, over 44,000 fans filed into Everbank Stadium to watch. Other host cities that season did not come close to number.  For instance, the attendance for the match against Venezuela was just over 22,000. This year Jacksonville city officials made 70,000 seats available for purchase and are predicting a near sellout.

Sounds like Khan needs to talk to the marketing department in charge of promoting the soccer game and take a few notes on selling tickets, especially since the Jaguars average attendance was 55,000 for the 2013 season, putting them in 28th place out of all NFL teams. If the Jaguars could get Jacksonville as excited about their games, this ranking could soar!

But what does bringing the U.S. men’s team mean for Jacksonville?

It means we are one step closer in becoming a “world-class city.” The name “Jacksonville” will be in the news, social media, and travel word-of-mouth amongst the fans in at least two countries. It also means bringing diversity to the sporting world in Jacksonville. The team isn’t staying permanently, but the hype about soccer is a breath of fresh air in a football-dominated country.

With this positive response to a soccer game, will Jacksonville reconsider building a team?

I doubt it; at least, not in the near future. There are other priorities before we make Jacksonville a “world-class city,” and creating a MLS team is probably near the bottom of the list (that doesn’t mean I’m not still crossing my fingers for it to happen).

One thing is for certain; if you want to find me this Saturday, I will be putting my vuvuzela to good use while watching Dempsey lead the boys to another victory for the U.S. at Everbank Field.

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“These Heroes Died For Your Tweets”

Honor, sacrifice...Cheerios?

There’s not much I hold sacrosanct. In fact, I believe most sacred cows are meant to be hanged, drawn and quartered.  Political correctness can often give rise to a particularly pernicious  brand of self-righteous indignation that snuffs out creativity and humor, and which makes life less, for lack of a better word, fun. I take immense pride in being a  habitual violator of good taste and proper decorum, if for no other reason, than to see self-anointed purveyors of good taste squirm.

I share all of this to let you, the reader, know there is little in the way of content or conversation that outrages me or pisses me off. That being said, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, in the world of social media marketing that makes me go into full-on PTA mom anger mode like holiday corporate messaging/branding. When I see a hashtag like #MLK, #VeteransDay or, most recently, #MemorialDay attached to a corporate name, I know I’m probably in store for something reprehensible. It seems more and more companies that should know better are perfectly fine with creating tweets that take solemn days of national remembrance and turn them into cynical shit-shows. Here are a few of the most cringe-worthy examples I found on Memorial Day of companies piggy-backing on our troops’ sacrifices to market their brand and sell their products. To all these companies I offer a salty salute and a red, white, and blue f**k you!

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