All in a good cause

If marketing is able to ally itself with worthy causes it will have a better chance of fending off politicians eager to use it as a scapegoat, says Raoul Pinnell

Raoul%20Pinnell%2C%20History%20of%20Advertising%20TrustWhen I was a child in Africa someone once said to me: “Be careful. Too much cola will rot your teeth and make you fat.” Obesity is now a preoccupation of the government. And accordingly to Downing Street’s “son of the manse”, the real cause of obesity is not the sin of drinking cola, nor the product itself, nor the retailers who sell it – but advertising.

Politicians don’t encourage debate about exercise and the availability of sport in schools. They don’t try to treat voters as humans with free wills, but as sheep who need to be herded. And behind advertising is marketing and the marketer, presented as some sort of swashbuckling privateer, determined to lead us into obesity.

The single solution on offer to our politicians appears to be to ban advertising, or relegate advertising for “offending products” to some form of late night ad watershed. It’s a solution that completely ignores the piles of sugary foods and drink beside the checkouts in shops, usually offered at severely discounted “not to be missed prices”. It also ignores the influence of other media. Just look at the way the new generation are able to access without fuss things like American internet wireless radio stations. While our young are online, they pick up rap-talking ads extolling the latest colas available at Wal-Mart. Our nanny state politicians can do nothing to control that.

Marketing must find a voice that gets our blind political leaders to see. Our profession must find a way of getting a reasoned and balanced discussion going. Not to do so simply allows advertising to be seized on as an easy whipping boy for cheap-trick politicians.

If we can demonstrate that marketing can aid a cause for good, this would do much to help a wider appreciation of the value of marketing.

Surely the essence of marketing is highlighting meaningful differences for one’s product or service? One way of doing this is to form an attachment to a cause associated with the disadvantaged.

For instance, there is certainly an opportunity for large brands to partner up with major causes in a focused and strategic way, which would help make a real difference to both interests. If brands are not to be seen as simply logos, they must be acknowledged as helping to change lives.

We all see many examples in which good marketing for good causes produces positive results way above their marketing costs. Isn’t marketing ultimately a driver of democracy? People choosing freely to pay or to give of their own free will? Consider the impact of fairtrade-type products. And the recent (Red) initiatives.

The suspicion is that some of these are just tactical promotions or public relations-led responses to company crises. If these were strategic, they might highlight on their labels the pay per hour that the worker gets. A T-shirt might bear the words: “Made from 100% cotton. Workers paid £8 per hour.”

Annual reports might be made to depict two thermometers, one showing profits made, and the other contributions to charity generated. It would certainly give a perspective on the scale of both and the differences between them.

A propos cola, a more strategic approach to brand partnerships here might try to balance the occasional enjoyment of the fizzy drink by associating it with a higher benefit than one’s own immediate consumption.

Consider how a cola brand that formed a partnership with a charity committed to providing access to clean drinking water for people in Africa could enhance its image. Such activity would mean marketing found it much easier to garner respect among those who seek to attack it.

A real partnership could surely deliver clean water and great cola. Just imagine: “Water to live. Cola to enjoy.” That really would see the world singing in perfect harmony.

Raoul Pinnell is governor of the History of Advertising Trust. He was previously chairman of Shell Brands International

Recommended

Expedia promotes Tamar to MD role

Marketing Week

Expedia Distribution has promoted Tamer Tamar to managing director and vice president for Europe Middle East and Africa region (EMEA). Tamar will be responsible for the day to day running of the business across this region. Tamar joined Expedia Distribution, the company’s white label products arm, in 2004 as business development manager for the UK. […]

EU ‘free’ directive definition splits ad bodies

Marketing Week

The Incorporated Society for British Advertisers (ISBA) and the Institute of Sales Promotions (ISP) have clashed over whether a new European Union directive will allow advertisers to use the word “free”. The Directive, which will be introduced in the UK on May 6, lays down rules for determining whether a commercial practice is unfair. Its […]

The Government repeats calls for alcohol danger ads

Marketing Week

The Government has repeated its calls to the drinks industry to advertise the dangers of alcohol or face further restrictions. The warning comes in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s report on the impact of the Licensing Act 2003 published today (March 4). Culture secretary Andy Burnham (pictured) says it would “welcome industry consideration […]

Comments

    Leave a comment

    Close

    Discover even more as a subscriber

    This article is available for subscribers only.

    Sign up now for your access-all-areas pass.

    Subscribers get unlimited access to unrivalled coverage of the biggest issues in marketing and world-renowned columnists, alongside carefully curated reports and briefings from Econsultancy. Find out more.

    If you are an existing print subscriber find out how you can get access here.

    Subscribe now

    Got a question?

    Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email customerservices@marketingweek.com

    If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here

    Subscribers get unlimited access to unrivalled coverage of the biggest issues in marketing and world-renowned columnists, alongside carefully curated reports and briefings from Econsultancy. Find out more.

    If you are an existing print subscriber find out how you can get access here.

    Subscribe now