Good is the New Black. Get dressed.

Having been retained by a company that’s making it easier for people to “do good”, The Genius has spent much time in recent months pondering the value and efficacy of cause marketing.

For the 3 of you who haven’t yet heard of cause marketing, allow me to share the official Wikipedia definition:

“Cause marketing or cause-related marketing refers to a type of marketing involving the cooperative efforts of a “for profit” business and a non-profit organization for mutual benefit. “

For the rest of you who DO know what cause marketing is, but aren’t yet investing in it… SHAME ON YOU! Not only are you guilty of being a corporate greed-monger, a.k.a. The Man, but you are also missing a GINORMOUS opportunity!

[side note: I think it’s extremely interesting that SpellCheck did not flinch when I typed the word “ginormous”—however, typing “SpellCheck” immediately brought out the little red squiggle. Truly bizarre.]

How ginormous am I talking here? Consider these numbers:

  • Somewhere between 83% & 91% of Americans (in other words, just about everyone!) say that companies have a responsibility to help support causes.
  • 92% have a more positive image of a company that supports a cause they care about.
  • 87% are likely to switch from one product to another (price and quality being equal) if the other product is associated with a good cause
  • 72% of Americans have purchased a particular brand because they know that brand supports a cause they believe in.

(All of the above data was gleaned from either the 2007 Cone Cause Survey Report or the 2007 PR Week Cause Survey.)

Those of you who shrugged those numbers off like a bad hangover, consider this: Americans are equally eager to PUNISH corporate villains as they are to reward corporate saints:

  • 85% would consider switching to another company’s products or services because of a company’s negative corporate responsibility practices.
  • 79% would refuse to invest in a company’s stock.
  • 77% would refuse to work at a company.
  • 66% would boycott a company’s products or services.

YIKES!

In addition to all of this obvious and significant sentiment in favor of socially responsible businesses, there’s also a substantial bit of evidence that “doing well by doing good” is really good for employee morale, employee retention, investor relations… and your complexion.

Ok, no hard evidence on the ‘complexion’ part, but the rest is verifiably true.

And if you and your company are not getting it—or more importantly, aren’t doing something about it—you’re buffoons!!!!

Because in spite of the fact that our great nation managed to elect a guy who can’t tell a good idea from belly button lint (not once, but TWICE, I might add!), and refers to the World Wide Web as “The Internets” (OY!)… sorry, I digress… In spite of all this idiocy, We the People do seem to have our heads on [somewhat] straight.

We care. We want to do good. And in an environment of extreme competition, far-reaching globalization, and 24/7 information—we expect, in fact, we practically DEMAND that the companies we give our hard-earned dollars to behave like good corporate citizens.

The question is… what are you [and your company] going to do about it?

Cause Marketing For Dummies

I know you’re not ALL dummies, but I think it’s safe to say that most of you are. So… The Genius shall [as usual] enlighten you in a way that will only require 3 or 4 of your 7 neurons.

Ready? Ok.

First the “Do”s:

1. Do something!
Yes, I realize that I just inadvertently said “do-do” (I have a 4-year-old son, which means no reference to potty talk goes unnoticed). The point here is that you WAKE UP from your ignorance and at a minimum, give some thought to the role cause marketing can and should play in your company’s/client’s overall strategy.

2. If [and when] you’re actually doing good, you should TELL PEOPLE!
I can understand being shy about publicizing an accounting scandal, executive office sex tapes, or class action lawsuits. But keeping your philanthropic endeavors hidden? Poppycock!

Research shows that 88% of Americans want to hear more from companies about their cause efforts—and are actively listening to what they say. So don’t be shy… inform and engage stakeholders about the good you’re doing. Trust me when I tell you it will pay off more than a celebrity endorsement, a glossy print ad, or even your run-of-the-mill Superbowl ad.

3. Align programs with business goals.
This seems like a no-brainer, but then… this IS cause marketing “for dummies”. You may be pretty, but you’re not bright. So—keep in mind that any cause marketing endeavor is doomed unless it considers deeply the issues that matter most to your customers and to your business. Alignment is key. Bullshit is not.

Now… for the all-important “Don’t”s:

1. Don’t bank on “one-offs”.
Sure, you can get some traction out of a cause-centered “promotion”. Slap a ribbon on something, jump on the “cause-of-the-month” bandwagon and color yourself happy!… Except… NO. That’s not how it works. Cause promotions might be an effective business strategy to increase short-term sales [for some], but superficial “one-offs” are not enough to build true loyalty.

Think long term, think alignment; think relationships, transformation, IMPACT. [There… now doesn’t that feel better already?]

2. Don’t forget that it’s not just about consistency; it’s about authenticity.
In the same way that shills get called out on blogs and other social media platforms (ahem, Whole Foods), so will cause marketing endeavors that are nothing but a front for a company that really doesn’t care.

The real message? DON’T F**K WITH PEOPLE.

Cause marketing can be hugely effective—and equally rewarding. But you’ll find yourself—and your shareholders—in a world of pain if you try to pull the wool over the public’s eyes about your true intentions.

3. Don’t forget the “how.”
– As in, how you communicate with your employees, clients, and the public at large. Research suggests that the vast majority of people engaging in causes are made aware of the cause by family/friends. And I probably don’t have to tell you again (or do I?) what a huge role the Internet and social media play in lubricating that communication pathway [did I really just say “lubricating”?].

If good is the new black, darlings (and I do believe it may be…), then… well, we’d all better start polishing our halos (or looking for a new line of work). I don’t know about you, but I kinda like this fashion trend.

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“They like me! They really like me!”

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of presenting What the F**K is Social Media? to Boston’s own Ladies Who Launch. The presentation was very well received, and man was it FUN to drop the F-bomb so many times! So much so, that I’ve decided to use a healthy dose of profanity in every presentation I write from this day forward. Doesn’t that sound f**king Genius?

Cursing aside, I must admit that in all my many years of being a Bonafide Marketing Genius, never have I so personally benefitted from the magic and momentum of this beloved thing we call the World Wide Web—and more specifically, from the magic and momentum of it’s offspring: social media.

Here’s what I mean.

At 4:00pm on July 2, 2008, I posted What the F**K is Social Media on Slideshare.net. I then sent an email to about a half dozen contacts who I thought would be interested in the material, and asked them to “vote” for it in the “World’s Greatest Presentation Contest.” A short while later, it appeared on Twitter (thanks @TDefren!) and found its way onto a few blogs, including Three Minds, Sixty Second View, Robert Paterson’s Blog, and numerous others.

By the end of the day, it had been viewed about 300 times.

By the end of the next day (July 3), >900 times.

July 4: >2700 times.

July 5: 4000 times.

As of this morning, it has been viewed >15,000 times, embedded on 209 other sites, favorited by 200 people, and [at least for now] is the most embedded slideshow this month and is in the top 25 most embedded slideshows of all time.

Meanwhile, all this buzz has resulted in >150 new Twitter followers (from all corners of the world), dozens of new connections on LinkedIn and Facebook, multiple “expertise” and speaking requests (the Genius particularly loves those!), and a Monster Truck-sized boost in blog traffic.

Do I hear a “Whoop Whoop!” By golly, I believe that I DO!

Some of you may look at these numbers and say “Big F**King deal. Who would expect any less from a Genius?” Others of you may be drooling with envy, or frozen—like a deer in headlights—at the sheer awesomeness of it. But the truth, my darlings, is that it is amazing—a true testament to the global, networked, constantly-sharing, engaged community that is the lifeblood of social media. That IS social media.

In other words, I owe it all to YOU. And I thank you. I may not be able to fit my head through the door any longer, but F**K it, I’m grateful, and I’m thrilled! Yee-HA!

In addition to arming me with juicy numbers to share and inflating my already super-sized ego, my dear online friends have also submitted a few fantastic comments that I’d like to share.

First, there was this one:

[Identity kept private since the chap sent me this little gem via email, claiming he wanted to protect ME from embarrassment. I’m not kidding.]

“I say: F**k social media 🙂 . From a personal point of view: the bubble will burst again and all that is left is face-2-face communication and interaction. From a professional point of view: a service or a product that targets the baby boomers for instance will not be sold over the internet. Check the stats… And only the top 10 of strong brands will survive via on line communication, creating buzz and brand awareness, not added value.

So, why should I get on the train? Give me one good reason ☺”

Um… did you somehow skip slides 6-44? Jesus, dude. I gave you 5 REALLY good reasons—which is 5 reasons more than you have for being such a dumbass.

And this one from Roger Martin:

Terrific f**king presentation. Marta, will you run for President … please? I’m a former political and investigative journalist who has owned and managed PR firms for the past 17 years. We are leaping into social marketing, and I’ve made your slideshow required viewing for all staff. (Maybe they’ll stop hitting the porn sites?)

To which I can only respond… No, Roger, they will never stop hitting the porn sites. But a guy can dream.

World’s Best Presentation

The Genius has done it again: shocked the world with her astounding brilliance, wit, and [ahem] sharp tongue.

How have I done it this time?

Well, tots, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so how about I just SHOW you:

Aptly titled “What the F**K is Social Media?”, I am throwing my oh-so-fine hat in the ring for Slideshare.net‘s World’s Best Presentation contest. VOTE FOR IT, if you know what’s good for you.

All modesty aside (and I’m not known for my modesty), I am looking forward to the conversation this deck will spur. Do you love it? Do you hate it? God help me if you don’t care either way.

Well don’t just sit there… SAY SOMETHING!