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Giving On Tuesday Sells On Friday, Article for American Marketing Association and CSRWire

This article was originally featured by the American Marketing Association (AMA) and CSRWire.

How “Giving Tuesday” and “Black Friday” Can Work Together to Transform your Holiday Season

Everyone knows the adage – Better to Give than Receive. Actually, if you are a consumer brand facing the upcoming important Holiday sales season it is Better to Give THEN Receive.

On Black Friday, brands drive high sales volume through discounts. But are the bargain-hunters likely to be loyal customers of those brands the other 364 days of the year? What if you connected with your consumers again four days later this year and focused on building a positive experience with them centered on giving rather than selling? How would it change your interactions during the holidays, your long term relationship with the consumer, and their desire to spread their positive impressions of your brand?

Enter Giving Tuesday.

Giving Tuesday, coming November 27th, was conceived to bring the heart back into the biggest shopping season of the year – to tap into the universal desire to help those in need, and to connect individuals, companies, and non-profits through giving. The thing is, consumers do care about social issues, especially during the holidays and, per the Cone Cause Evolution Study, are nearly twice as likely to buy from a company that supports a cause they care about. So companies are giving back and increasing cause marketing spending. The problem is that customers often don’t know or understand what the companies are doing and certainly aren’t thinking about it on Black Friday, so their holiday buying isn’t significantly affected by it.

Giving Tuesday offers an opportunity to do good, drive sales, and create a solid foundation for your long term relationships with your customers. It cuts through the noise of the season and anchors your brand to something that will be remembered and talked about for years to come.

A powerful example

In 1984, before the days of cause marketing as we know it, a group of musical artists came together and created a song called “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” to raise money for Ethiopian famine relief. Though the group’s name Band Aid was new, the artists were well known and the song became the biggest selling single in UK Singles Chart history and #1 on U.S. charts. The song still plays on the radio every holiday season and was even re-released on a Starbucks Holiday (RED) CD several years back. The following year, another group of artists called USA for Africa recorded “We Are the World” which raised $63 million for humanitarian aid to Africa.

This was over a quarter century ago when my friends and I were teenagers absorbed in our own worlds. I don’t remember what I got for Christmas those years. But I do remember Bono, Phil Collins, James Taylor, Michael Jackson… Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Cindi Lauper, and Willie Nelson. I clearly recall the tunes, the lyrics, what I learned from them and the feeling they produced. They shifted the way I thought about the holiday season through their message. I bought the records and talked about them with my friends. And the media praised them far and wide. Since then, I’ve paid particular attention to those artists’ causes and music – not just a passing fan but a committed one.

Why were my peers and I so affected by these songs and for so long? An easy answer could be that the singers were stars who did something good. But a lot of stars have supported causes in very forgettable ways. Band Aid and USA for Africa did more than just write a check. They invested significant time, resources and talents. They engaged us all in it – in understanding the suffering in Ethiopia and Africa, in doing something to help, and in feeling good about it. And they did something different, that no artists had thought of before, by coming together to create these songs.

Lessons for marketers

The problem brands face in cause marketing is that it too often greatly benefits causes but does very little good for business. Often the brand’s cause or program feels good, is what they’ve done before, and has been generally well received but still doesn’t directly drive revenue in a way that can be measured. If your cause marketing isn’t capturing your consumers’ hearts and brains in a way that they’ll remember in 20 years then it isn’t doing all it can for your brand.

Powerless cause marketing is often due to one or more of the following:

Irrational attachment to a single cause: the CEO is on the board of the cause, it’s in their comfort zone, they see the company/cause relationship as monogamous, or believe their customers are attached to that cause/company combination. In reality, customers are far less attached to these than companies think.
Organizational inefficiency: promotions, direct marketing, brand, PR, social media, cause marketing, and community/giving are separate groups, yet the most powerful cause marketing crosses all of these.
Conventional thinking: the company doesn’t seek out the ideas or leading edge knowledge regarding tools and technologies that can drive greater results. And their agency either doesn’t have the expertise the client believes they do or doesn’t pitch new ideas in this area because of the two reasons stated above.

For any of these reasons, wonderful cause giving programs can do little to move the needle for the business.

Giving Tuesday offers marketers the opportunity stand out in a way that reaches both the wallets and hearts of their customers by trying something different and applying the lessons of these 80s artists.

Shock and awe: customers expect to be sold on Friday – they don’t expect to be loved on Tuesday. Giving first changes the landscape for the remainder of the week and season. Your consumers will expect to get the ads but they won’t expect to get engaged with you in changing the world.
Make them feel: deeply engage and inspire them, to transform the basis of your relationship for the long term and create loyal, committed customers. By giving them rich information about nonprofit project work and empowering them to choose what’s meaningful to them, you will reach their hearts and they’ll remember it.
Be social: inspire and enable them to easily share the experience with their friends to drive millions of authentic social media recommendations meaning positive PR, clicks and revenue.
Think differently: let go of irrational attachments and encourage cross-group thinking and collaboration. Seek out new ideas and leading edge tools and consider them in light of their power to produce dramatic results (versus their fit with existing programs).

I’m deeply hopeful that a few companies will do something big, defining Giving Tuesday in a way that makes it good for the world and good for business – so the concept catches on and becomes entrenched in the season the way Black Friday has. In 20 years, when the world looks back on the first Giving Tuesday, any immediate associations could include certain companies’ programs with the same affection with which my generation remembers “Feed the World.” I’ll vote with my wallet for those companies.