2007年7月1日星期日

Social Cause or Social Cost?

Recently I was reading this article "[ microsoft / WLM ] im 一下,真能做善事? ." Basically the article was discussing about the new social initiative Microsoft started (I'm MAKING A DIFFERENCE ). If you put on logo of your choice of organization in front of your name, you give money every time you chat with friends. The article argues that you have to be Windows Live Messanger 8.1 user to have that feature and if you don't have that version (Windows NY, 2000, or below), you can't read the friend list screen. You have to use Windows XP or VISTA. Therefore, Microsoft probably makes more money than any of the non-profit organiztions it sponsored.

It is true. Although I don't like Microsoft that much (I want my MAC!!!!!), I like Bill Gate. He donate tons of money to numerous organizations to help social cause or medical research every year. It might be Microsoft's new marketing strategy, but I have nothing to lose.

However, the "social cause marketing" has been using by many organizations. For examples, you see a lot of back to school sales by Wal-Mart or Target every fall. They promise to give back the money to the local schools if you buy specific products. Or you see a lot of different products that would donate their partial profit to non-profit organizations, such as Gap's new initiative

. It helps the AIDS in Africa and it is part of the Product Red Campaign . The entire campaign is extremely success with numerous celebrities endorsement.

Or the most advertised social cause is breast cancer. Have you noticed one month of year, there are many products became pink? Pink M&M chocolate, pink T-shirt, pink credit card, pink pen...etc. Everything you can think of become pink during Breast Cancer Awareness month. Social cause? Or just marketing strategy?


Why coporations and marketers like social cause marketing?
1. They get better result in sales
2. They have better brand image relate to social cause
3. They feel good about themselves
4. They get good tax break
5. It's easier to get celebreties endorsement

Why consumers like social related products?
1. It makes them feel good about themeslves
2. Most people don't like to donate. They want to get something in return
3. They feel they became something bigger than themselves
4. It might become a new fasion and you want to be part of it

So let's go back to back to school sales. Who win? The consumers? Probably not. We shop anyway and sometimes we might shop more because we feel it is for a good cause. Then the schools? Well..... as you know, government give less and less money for the schools because they have less and less money. Therefore, the schools have to partner with corporation to have resources they need. The companies get more sales and they give little back to the schools. Then the companies get good tax break because of their "social cause" and the government receives less money in tax. Finally, the government gives less to the school. Got it? It is a bad cycle.
How about the pink products? For example, Post-It Note has the pink note during Breast Cancer Awarness Month for more money. However, it probably costs about the same price to produce it and I doubt non-profit organization they support gain as much as the company's profit. And don't forget about the upper limit. Many companies set upper limit for the donation in very very small print on the ad. Most people can't even see them. In additions, many cosmetics companies claim to be the supporters for breast cancer. However, the scary truth is most companies use chemicals that proven to be associations with breast cancer or the companies wouldn't sign the agreement of safe chemical for breast cancer. Companies such as Estée Lauder, Revlon, Avon and MaryKay are examples. (source: think before you pink ). In my opinion, breast cancer awareness became a brand itself and it is over marketed. It is easier to sell because it is related to sex and people are aware of it. Lung cancer kills more women every year than breast cancer but you don't see products support that.


So what's the advice?
Although buying products that support social cause is good, please be a smart buyer and don't trap into marketers' strategy. The simple way to do it: JUST DONATE TO THE ORGANIZATIONS OF TRUST. Of course I know most poeple want to get something out of it. Then research before you purchase. Make sure there's no or high upper limit for their donation. And make sure the company is fully devoted to the cause. Another suggestion is buying products that aren't over advertised and/or support a less marketed cause.

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