Ah, cause-marketing. One of my favorite topics. Usually I’m spouting off on the positives of cause-marketing and ways to improve it. This week it’s all about when cause-marketing goes bad. I saw a commercial recently that just didn’t quite fit for me. Huggies was urging its customers to “Go Hawaiian for a Cause” and purchase their limited-edition Hawaiian print diapers to help diaper babies in need. What do Hawaiian print diapers have to do with diapering babies in need? There is nothing in the commercial that relates to babies in need. It’s simply a baby in a Hawaiian print diaper. No further explanation and an odd association. Hawaiian prints do not make me think of babies in need. In fact, it actually seems more like cause-washing. Zachary Sniderman defines cause-washing as “the act of hijacking important causes to sell more stuff”
. The rest of his article features “5 Tips for Running Successful Cause-Marketing Campaigns”. Something I’m not sure Huggies will be doing, and here’s why.
Sniderman’s first tip is “Do Your Homework”, making sure the non-profit you want to pair up with has a good track record. What about whether it’s a fit for your brand? That’s just as, if not more, important to consider. In fact, why even look at track records before deciding whether a non-profit’s a good fit? In this situation Huggies has paired up with the National Diaper Bank Network, a non-profit dedicated to providing every child in the U.S. with the supply of diapers to remain clean, healthy and dry. Yet for every Hawaiian diaper or wipes pack purchased, their “Every Little Bottom” campaign only diapers a baby in need for one day. Wide-reaching? Yes. Long-term? Not so much. Ok, back to my point. The non-profit fits, it’s the creative that doesn’t. Sniderman’s second tip is “What Is Your Brand About?” Again, something you should figure out before deciding to partner with a non-profit and before deciding what non-profit to make your partner. He mentions KFC’s backlash for partnering with Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Just because the breast is an organ common to the chicken and the human female doesn’t make it a good idea to relate the two. Hawaiian print diapers and babies in need don’t even have a commonality like that to bond them, and it’s still a bad correlation. Huggies needs to reconsider what type of imagery goes along with babies in need, because this isn’t it. Their press release also puts a lot of focus on the Hawaiian print being cute for spring and summer and moms stylishly accessorizing, and yet that’s not the focus of this campaign
Moving on. His third tip has nothing to do with my point, because involving your employees, while a good idea, does not make or break this campaign. Why? Because the cause isn’t even clearly defined in the commercial. Their press release begins to spell it out, but they forget to mention it as part of the product description on their website
. A major blunder in consistency. That further proves my point that Hawaiian print diapers and diapering babies in need are more unrelated than related. Point four is about “Managing Expectations” as far as long-term and one-off commitments. Weird that according to their press release they’ve donated more than 60 million diapers and yet this is the first I’ve heard about it. My expectations are that the real point of this commercial will be quickly forgotten. Point five focuses on what to do if it ‘hits the fan’ and falls through. I don’t think there’s much of an ‘if’ here. Yes people will buy the diapers, but they will buy more for the cute prints than the actual cause. Cause-marketing should be measured by how successfully people buy to support the cause, not just buy because it’s cute. It all goes back to the definition of cause-washing, hijacking an important cause to sell product. This commercial is more focused on selling product than promoting a cause. Huggies should have taken the time and made the effort to put the cause first. It’s not cause-marketing if the cause is buried. Even if it’s buried under cute diapers.