The Cause Marketing Catalyst

by Anis Salvesen

Meet Bruce Burtch.  Bruce was doing cause marketing before there was even a term for it.  In 1976, he developed a cause marketing partnership between the Marriott Corporation and the March of Dimes.  It was no small feat.  The campaign, promoting Marriott’s Great America was both exciting and extensive.  Participants in pledge walks in 67 cities competed to bring in the most money for a fantastic prize; the winners and 100 of their friends were invited to the opening of Great America.

In addition to becoming instantly more popular, winners generated amazing results.  The March of Dimes raised $2.5 million – and this was in 1976 when the average American’s annual income was $16,000.  Great America was visited by 2.2 million people in the first year.

Almost thirty years later, in 2005, Bruce was still at it.  He designed and directed a marketing campaign for Pacific Gas & Electric Company in partnership with the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter.  This campaign, Prepare Bay Area, trained 1,000,000 San Francisco Bay Area residents over the course of just 3 years to be ready to take effective action in the event of an earthquake or other emergency. Wow!  Oh and did we mention the partnership also raised $1.25 million?

Today Bruce continues to be a pioneer in the field of cause marketing.  While most of us think of cause marketing campaigns in terms of just being a win-win situation, his focus is on how the campaign, the partnership, can help society.  Most of the attention in the area of cause marketing is on Fortune 500 companies, but Bruce believes that any organization can “do well by doing good.”

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Bruce, and he gave me a great example.  He had me imagine that I owned my own hair salon here in San Francisco.  As a small business owner, I may not have a big budget for a cause marketing campaign, but that doesn’t mean I can’t partner with a non-profit for the greater good.  I could host a head shaving event in my salon one evening for an organization called the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.  Participants in these events shave their heads in solidarity with children suffering from cancer and raise funds to fight it.  “The St. Baldrick’s Foundation funds more in childhood cancer research grants than any organization except the U.S. government.”  It has made over $41 million in grants, and as a small salon owner, I could be part of that.


One thought on “The Cause Marketing Catalyst

  1. Wonderful post.I would just reiterate that the key to a successful cause-marketing partnership is finding a cause whose mission is compatible with yours and cultivating an authentic,mutual relationship.It is also essential that the partner we choose:
    Is friendly to your business mission.
    Aligned with your values
    Able to reach the markets you want to reach
    If they don’t fit these guidelines,we should not try”work something out” as it would lead to failure of our mission.
    And the thing to remember,Cooperation for mutual gain and for the good of the world is the guiding principle behind cause marketing.

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