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Cause Marketing 2.0

May 18, 2011

Dosomegood Pepsi Refresh, a cause-marketing campaign launched in 2010 that invited nonprofits to compete for $20 million in grants from the food and beverage giant, would not have happened without GOOD (the company that publishes GOOD magazine), a recent article in the New York Times suggests.

What exactly did GOOD do to help turn Pepsi Refresh into the fifth-best social-media campaign to date, as ranked by Forbes magazine? In addition to helping Pepsi come up with the idea, the Times says, GOOD developed the online voting platform for the contest, "assembl[ed] a grant management team to assist award recipients, recruit[ed] an advisory board to lend the effort cachet and credibility, and docu-
ment[ed] the community projects in videos that have raised the profiles of the projects and the program."

The contest was such a hit that Pepsi decided to offer an improved version in the U.S. this spring and is also bringing it to China and parts of Latin America.

Building on that success, GOOD announced last week that it was creating a subsidiary called GOOD/Corps to help businesses "align strategy with impact, profit with progress." (To learn more about the venture, visit the GOOD/Corps Web site, which includes case studies of GOOD's work with Pepsi, Toyota, Starbucks, and IBM.)

As the site puts it, "There is no such thing as a consumer in today’s world. There are people who choose to participate, or choose not to." And the aim of GOOD/Corps isn't to "help brands win by targeting consumers with messaging. [It's to] help brands win by turning their audience into advocates -- people who participate with the brand in a common purpose."

So that's what cause marketing looks like in 2011.

A few months ago, I asked in a post here whether Pepsi should be doing more to align the Pepsi Refresh campaign with its internal CSR goals. But as increasingly social-media savvy corporate giants continue to fudge the line between PR and CSR, I'm beginning to wonder, from the point of view of the consumer participant, whether it matters.

Does it? Has the so-called Values Revolution (a GOOD/Corps coinage) relegated the hard, bright line between PR and CSR to the dustbin of history? And as more companies follow in Pepsi's footsteps, what might be the fate of more traditional corporate philanthropy efforts -- matching-gift programs, in-kind contributions, employee-volunteer programs, and the like?

-- Regina Mahone

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If you make the bar too high, no one will even try to jump. Pristine, no-profit motives are not necessary as long as some social good is accomplished. And it may be that the cause marketing that brings PepsiCo to the forefront of social media campaigns also, in a kind of play it backward way, also brings the company into greater social responsibility. An article in the May 16 edition of The New Yorker describes how PepsiCo is trying to develop healthier snacks in the interest of long-term growth and consumer health.

Geri, thank you for reminding us that "no-profit motives are not necessary as long as some social good is accomplished." At a time when 8.7 percent of the workforce is unemployed, Pepsi and GOOD have boosted morale through the Refresh Project by enabling everyday Americans to improve their communities.

Of course, we don't want to set the bar too low either. Corporations have taken to social networking sites because that's where we (their customers) are. As participants in this new "Values Revolution," we have to make sure we're holding businesses accountable, in the same way that nonprofits are (or should be) accountable to their donors.

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