Chipotle, Willie, And The Five Keys To Effective Cause Marketing

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When the delicate art of cause marketing works, it is wonderfully powerful.

Take the new initiative that Chipotle restaurants has embarked on. Chipotle has always been about “food with integrity”, supporting local growers and ranchers and purchasing organic and naturally grown crops and meats.

To demonstrate their commitment to this cause, they commissioned a short film by filmmaker Johnny Kelly that depicts a farmer who grows weary of the industrial menace his family farm has become, and takes his farm back to it’s roots, to a more sustainable future.

They invited Willie Nelson to sing the theme song. But not just any song. Willie sings the haunting Coldplay song “The Scientist”, with a chorus that reminds us ”nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be so hard… I’m going back to the start”.

The combined impact of this little movie and its understated score is massive.

This is cause marketing at its best, and here are five key reasons why:

1. A relevant brand. Chipotle has held sustainable farming close to it’s heart from the very beginning. Nobody doubts their dedication to the cause. This didn’t come out of left field. How many times have you seen a company jump on board the cause-of-the-day and wondered why they are really getting involved?

2. The partnerships make sense. Willie Nelson is a perfect choice, with his outlaw country roots. And the Coldplay song is ideal, with a haunting chorus that will stick in your head for hours.

3.  It doesn’t preach. The film conveys the simple and powerful message that a sustainable future isn’t easy, but it is vitally important and worthwhile. Nobody appreciates being preached to or spoken down to.

4. Nothing is being sold. In fact, the only connection to Chipotle is at the end, when the farmer loads product onto a Chipotle delivery truck and drives away. Cause marketing fails when it tries to sell product, and it nearly always tries – in some way – to sell.

5. Total transparency. All proceeds from the song and film (available now on iTunes), go towards the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation. Not a “percentage of the profits”, but all proceeds. When cause marketing campaigns are vague about where the money is going, we all get suspicious. Cause marketing must be transparent to be accepted as sincere.



cause marketing, Chipotle, Uncategorized, Willie Nelson 284 Comments

Causes That Connect To Customers

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Cause marketing – the idea of aligning your brand with a social cause close to the heart of your customers – really works… but only under a few conditions.

Jon Bon Jovi knows this well.  His band is on tour and at each city, Jon is heading into the deepest parts of the inner-city in order to collect information for his foundation that helps the homeless.  Since 2006, the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation has created 150 affordable housing units in seven American cities.

What makes a good cause marketing initiative?

1. A natural/logical relationship between the brand and the cause.  In the case of Jon Bon Jovi, the relationship is clear.  His music has often been about the struggles of the average man.  In fact, his latest album includes a song called “Working For The Working Man” and numerous songs inspired by the economic meltdown.  Jon Bon Jovi has never been one to flaunt his riches.  Many of the people finding themselves homeless today are those who were walking the fine line between making it and not prior to the economic collapse, and all of us can relate to having to do more with less than ever before.

2. The PR happens (relatively) organically.  Jon Bon Jovi isn’t calling this the “Bon Jovi Helps The Homeless Tour”.  The good PR will happen in large part because he isn’t actively seeking it.  He is simply meeting with local homeless groups in each city and touring the areas where his foundation could assist them.  He isn’t doing it with news cameras and paparazzi.  Yes, he has a PR machine working with his foundation, but they are not exploiting the cause in order to increase Jon’s profile.

3. The cause is timely.  With the state of the economy and with people not eager to pay higher taxes, now is the perfect time to investigate new ways to help the homeless.  The cause is an evergreen one that won’t be going away, but there’s no question that it is a particular hot button these days.  It is important that the cause your brand supports is one that connects with people’s present state-of-mind, otherwise it is unlikely your efforts will register with customers.

Cause marketing is vital. As Roy Williams has observed, today’s society is one of increasing civil responsibility.  It seems with each day we feel a stronger sense of community (that link is worth checking out, by the way). We are more likely than ever before to be loyal to a brand that gives back to our community in a meaningful way.

What does your brand give back?  Have you developed a sense of higher purpose?  Do you leave your customers with the feeling that you care about the same things they do?


Some examples of rock stars and rock star brands who give back to their communities:

Dave Matthews Band established the Bama Works Foundation in 1999 to help disadvantaged youth and the disabled.  The foundation has also assisted environmental causes, the arts, and humanities.

Metallica has developed a relationship with Live Earth to use their concerts to raise money for the environment and fight climate change.

Elton John’s work with AIDS foundations has been well documented.

Whole Foods gives back 5% of their annual net profits to community causes, often determined by the local stores based on the needs of each individual community.

Last year, Ford donated $20 per test drive on each new car to the Susan G. Komen Foundation to help cure cancer.

Several times over the past few years, Apple has used the iTunes store to sell charity albums and songs without taking any profit.  When the world’s largest music store decides to donate their cut of the profit, the numbers are significant.

Apple, Bon Jovi, cause marketing, Dave Matthews, Elton John, Ford, Metallica, Roy Williams, Whole Foods 90 Comments

Five Key Cause Marketing Questions

Hollywood celebrities and musicians are lining up to be part of the upcoming “Hope for Haiti” benefit organized by George ClooneyJustin Timberlake, Sting, Bono, Christina Aguilera, and Alicia Keys are confirmed so far. On January 22, Clooney will co-host the benefit along with Haitian-born Wyclef Jean.

Wyclef, it should be known, has worked tirelessly for his impoverished home country for years now.  His Yele Haiti foundation has done tremendous work in the country, and his music has brought worldwide attention to Haiti.

Social causes have long been a part of rock ‘n roll.  In the 60′s and 70′s, rock music trumpeted the socially relevant causes of racial equality, gender bias, and the war in Vietnam.  In the 80′s, the Live Aid concerts were a milestone in understanding the immense power of popular music as a vehicle for social change and raising change in the form of cash.  More recently, rock stars have helped instigate political change.  There’s no question that the support of Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, and had an impact on the 2008 Presidential election!

Cause marketing” is the umbrella term given to brands that align themselves with causes.  These partnerships generally have mutual benefit, giving the brand the PR and the warm glow of helping out and giving the cause added publicity and money.  While it may sound mercenary on the surface, there’s nothing inherently wrong with cause marketing.

Rock star brands should ask some key questions when it comes to cause marketing:

1. Does the partnership truly benefit the cause?  Embarking on a cause marketing campaign in the name of your brand’s own selfish gain never works.  If you partner with a cause, work hard to understand what they hope to gain and work hard to make it happen.

2. Is there any consumer benefit?  Creating a cause marketing partnership will only work when the consumer stands to benefit.  It is the consumer benefit that drives sales and brand awareness, and drives benefit to the cause.  No consumer benefit, and everyone involves usually loses.

3. Is everything transparent?  Even the great work Wyclef Jean has done with Yele Haiti has come under scrutiny.  If you can’t disclose everything about your cause marketing partnerships, you shouldn’t be in them.

4. Is the campaign authentic?  Nike’s “LIVESTRONG” campaign has worked brilliantly because it is wonderfully authentic.  Lance Armstrong is a cancer survivor who has conquered the Tour De France seven times.  Nike’s alignment with Lance and their promotion of “LIVESTRONG” as a brand itself has been very powerful.

5. Is the partnership congruent?  Great cause marketing campaigns involve brands and causes that make sense to the consumer.  Aligning brands with causes that share similar values, goals, and missions is vital.  A Rihanna campaign to reduce violence against women would make perfect sense.  But an Ozzy Osbourne alliance with animal rights might not.

bono, Bruce Springsteen, cause marketing, Dave Matthews, haiti, justin timberlake, Lance Armstrong, Ozzy Osbourne, Rihanna, sting,, wyclef jean 125 Comments