Once I happened to deliver a speech at Innovationscafé by Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship in Munich with the topic being "The path to Traction – Why flip flops are the wrong shoes for conquering Mount Everest". After my presentation I was spontaneously approached by Ulinka Wagner who shared with me that while she was listening to me a couple more marketing tools occurred to her. There are always more opportunities but what flashed across her mind proved to be the most relevant. Thereupon we got together to discuss her experience with charity and crowdfunding in terms of marketing actions. You can find the first part of our conversation below, while the second part you can find under the heading Crowdfunding as Marketing Tool here
Marketing via Charity
Ulinka, what is your connect with charity in terms of marketing?
First, what concerns charity: As I was engaged in the editorial work in the publishing house I started to increasingly realize that whatever topic emerged on my colleagues’ desks they had better chances to be published if they had some relation to charitable activities. How about a small promising but so far unknown jeans label, which, despite the tight budget, advocate for fair working conditions and durable materials? Standing up against the big corporations perceived as indecent exploiters, who have their mass production secured by workers who do their job in shameful conditions and are paid minimum wage? This is the perfect picture for storytelling of a brand. The most suitable name for this one would be Goodsociety!
Here is their big mission: good versus evil, David versus Goliath. Because who is going to buy more expensive jeans, just because they have up to a couple more colored seams, a darker wash, with a couple holes more or other embroider, the jeans that on the whole are hard to distinguish from any other average pair of jeans? Without a plausible story behind this label the product would not do a good job. Such a heroic story allows a company to charge their product or service with emotion and sense of purpose, and can elaborate a connection to their customer. Big companies can also use such a strategy: they come up with a capsule collection that has been manufactured in ecologically clean conditions from recycled materials. (A good example would be Conscious Collection by H&M or Collection from RE:CYCLE by Victor & Rolf for Zalando.).
What experiences and lessons learned could you gather in this field?
I believe, it functions if, naturally, a product or a service is nice. It works as leverage for marketing. The story behind the company or brand as well as the vendor themselves have to be authentic and consistent.
According to a survey by Economist roughly 79% of millennials buy something from the companies that assume social responsibility. And companies should not exaggerate with this image not just conjuring up some good cause which doesn’t even exist. Customers will feel it, even subconsciously they will distinguish a fake. It will consequently bring the brand image into disrepute. The worst case scenario it will be ridiculed.
In your opinion, at what stage of the marketing funnel the topic of charity makes sense?
I believe, tight in the beginning, a good mission and a sense of purpose are supposed to be imbedded in the product one is marketing, so they can be as well communicated to the target audience from the very beginning. It can or should be subtle. The bad example would be a popular Balenciaga collection which featured a rather conspicuous slogan like "World Food Program", but in reality only 10% of the revenue is directed to the organization.
Can we recognize charity as the marketing instrument that targets branding of a company/product/service or new clients?
I believe such marketing measures can be applicable rather in terms of branding and the identity of a brand.
What about sustainability of charity in marketing?
What can produce a more long-term effect on a consumer than your product’s true connection to something good and important, to a story of a good cause, especially if it is meant to be so, if it is not only for publicity, when you really care? At the end of the day every good act returns to us, and it really can produce a way higher turnover.
Dear Ulinka, I am so glad we could make this first part of our interview.