Thursday, July 18, 2013

Some thoughts on for-profit companies using charities for marketing purposes

On Twitter today, Clementine Ford (@clementine_ford) tweeted about the One For The Girls campaign, where if you buy a packet of Moxie pads they will donate an equivalent amount of pads to women in Uganda through the organisation AFRIpads. I think it’s a worthwhile campaign and one of the reasons I follow Clementine Ford is that she often brings my attention to issues like these that I miss hearing about through other media. I did not know access to feminine hygiene products was an issue for women in Africa and, now that I do, I definitely want to do something about it. These are all good things.

However, Ms Ford got a major side eye from me when she tweeted: “I don’t use pads, but I’ll definitely be buying some bathroom guest supplies so I can support the #oneforthegirls campaign.” It highlights the No.1 issue that consumers need to remember when a for-profit company donates to a charity based on sales – they are employing a marketing strategy. If you are already a Moxie customer, this won’t change your purchasing patterns. But, if you are not a Moxie customer, for the next few months, you may buy Moxie pads instead of your usual brand because of this. There is nothing wrong with that – if you’re going to buy pads anyway, why not pick a brand that are doing something good? But remember, there is absolutely no reason why Moxie couldn’t have committed to donating a certain amount of money to AFRIpads without advertising it or linking it to sales. They could have done it silently and not publicly but they didn’t, because a) bringing attention to the good they’re doing creates positive associations with their branding and b) it will increase sales and attract new customers. Feminine hygiene products have a high degree of brand loyalty so, once you attract new customers, they are likely to stay with you. Additionally, pads aren’t something that people talk about often – Moxie are very cleverly inserting themselves into conversation and increasing awareness of their brand.

I am not saying that companies shouldn’t donate to charities, only that customers need to be aware of what companies are doing with campaigns like this. Don’t buy a product you will not use just to support a marketing campaign – give your money directly to the charity instead. That way they get all of it and you are still doing good. In this day and age with ubiquitous marketing that comes from all sources, including journalists we admire, it’s more important than ever to be critical consumers.


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