Shallow Marketing

I was struck at this Fancy Food Show at how many companies are starting to tie their new products to commitments to give donations to social causes.

You’d think that is great and to be encouraged, but I was quite turned off, because it was so clear that to a lot of these companies it was not a true mission with sincerity of purpose, but a shallow gimmick. 

The concept of "we donate X% of our profits to Y Cause" is being manipulated to the detriment of efforts that are sincere and real.  I wish some third party organization fostering transparency in socially responsible business behavior would audit/inspect claims in this field.

I asked a few of them which organizations they donated to, or how much they had donated, and most said, "well, we are not profitable yet, so we haven’t donated anything." [And some had been in business for a few years already]

Isn’t it unethical to claim you are donating something when you are not?  Ok, you are not profitable yet? And you can’t find it logical to donate something?  Then you are not entitled to make the claim that you are donating!

I recall when I started PeaceWorks 14-15 years ago that we were lucky to be profitable almost every year, but with very modest profits where 5% would be peanuts, so we just logically supplemented that with some meaningful donation to what we believed in (in that case, Mideast peace efforts, supporting Seeds of Peace and other groups, when OneVoice and the PeaceWorks Foundation were not yet in existence).

Even in the one year when we were not profitable in the mid-90s, we made sure to make a meaningful donation.  And, in PeaceWorks case, this was not even our main socially responsible contribution. Our business model itself was the important contribution – fostering joint ventures among neighbors striving to co-exist.

When doing "cause-marketing", companies that are real and sincere should always be careful to understate their case and over-deliver.  Consumers and the media are smart – and will eventually sniff out charlatans.

A company does not need to "attach" a mission to have a product worthy of support. 

But what is unforgivable is for a company to lie about its claims.  That should not only incur the wrath of consumers, retailers and distributors; it should provoke a response from government agencies in charge of preventing false advertising claims from duping the public.

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