Hollywood celebrities and musicians are lining up to be part of the upcoming “Hope for Haiti” benefit organized by George Clooney. Justin 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 Will.i.am 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.