Don’t Take Advantage of Sick Babies and Lonely Puppies to Grow Your Business

Made you click! With a title like that, you’re probably thinking, “Yikes! Is Marketing Zen really saying that companies shouldn’t help worthy charities?” Well, don’t worry – nothing could be further from the truth. The key phrase in the title is “take advantage.” As in, don’t use them. Help them, by all means. But only if you really mean it.

Here’s what we’re talking about. Have you ever seen an online cause marketing campaign that just seemed a little…off…to you? Sort of random, or maybe even opportunistic? A company whose website states that for every super-expensive product you buy, they’ll donate “a percentage” to some unnamed charity? Or companies who plaster pink ribbons everywhere, but sell products that can actually cause cancer?


Those are the guys using babies and puppies for personal gain. They don’t really seem to care about the charity they mention– it’s all just a marketing stunt to bring in the cash.

Then there are the good guys. The businesses that are truly passionate about the cause they espouse, and want to spread the word among their customers so that they’ll help, too.

Unfortunately, you know the old saying – one bad apple spoils the whole bunch. You have to prove to customers that your desire to help is authentic…or the backlash will be immediate and fierce.

So how do you show the world that you’re sincere? One way is to use social media to prove that it’s not all about the Benjamins. Instead of donating an unspecified percentage of each sale to a charity, or even matching donations, try launching a social action campaign. No one can argue that taking action isn’t authentic – how many people who don’t care about a cause would really spend their weekends volunteering?

Here’s a guide to starting your own social action campaign using social media:

1. Ask customers to upload pictures of themselves taking action for your cause onto Instagram, using the personalized hashtag for your campaign.

Not only will you be getting people to do good, you’ll be harnessing the power of online peer pressure! Everyone will want to get in on the action, post their own pictures…and then share them with friends, which will keep the cycle going.

2. Set up a Twitter account for the campaign that retweets those pictures.

Make sure your Twitter followers know what’s going on, so they can spread the word and join in themselves!

3. Make a Facebook page for your campaign, and connect it with the Twitter account, so those pictures get the maximum amount of traction.

Keep everyone on Facebook informed about the success of your campaign by posting regular updates, as well.

4. Post videos on YouTube showing volunteers in action, and giving more information about your cause.

This is the place to show interviews with representatives of your charity, presentations detailing the reasons why the need is so great, heartfelt pleas for help from you and your employees…and cool video montages of all of you working together to do something great.

5. Use your blog to share your company’s manifesto.

Spell out the reasons why this cause is important to you, and what exactly your campaign’s goals are. Let customers know how they can pitch in, and tell everyone’s story, from the people receiving help to the volunteers themselves. The more individual human faces you put on a cause, the more help you’ll get.

When you ask for action rather than money, there’s virtually no risk of controversy or backlash. You’ll be helping your cause significantly, while reaping the benefits for your company’s image, as well. And just think – everyone who is helped by your campaign, and everyone who pitches in at your urging, will always remember that your business was the one that started it all. How’s that for proof of sincerity?

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