StrawberryFrog is a marketing agency run by Scott Goodson with locations in New York, Amsterdam, Mumbai and Sao Paulo. The agency has created diverse marketing and advertising campaigns for companies as big as Pepsi, Ikea, Heineken, and Pampers. Scott's book Uprising (McGraw-Hill) reveals a formula for tackling the “cause marketing” approach which is a little understood strategy used to achieve viral marketing effects.
The main idea behind "cause marketing" is that a lot of passion exists out in the world. Your average brand may not be the most exciting thing to think about, but when that same brand finds itself mingling and interacting or collaborating with a popping social cause that's somehow conceptually related (by one degree, or perhaps three), then all of a sudden, if finds itself operating in a heavily trafficked space full of passionate audiences, activists and influencers whose energies can be tapped into.
Goodson, however, words it in a way that makes the corporate effort seem less "heat seeking" and opportunistic. Goodson would rather have a company partner up with a cause that makes a lot of sense to embrace, such as when he proposed a brief for HÅG Ergonomic Chairs. Because one of Uprising's basic principles is that a brand needs to have something to position itself against, StrawberryFrog proposed to HÅG that it should create awareness around the threat of sitting too long at work, as the dangers of doing so have recently become hot topic in the news. We do not find out in the book, however, how HÅG ended up reacting to the proposal, or if they did indeed follow the suggestion.
That case study, and many others certainly made a great case for the intelligent study of cultural movements. But what about companies that are constantly needing to briskly link up their efforts to some kind of ROI? What if a company needs to sell something at the end of the social media rainbow?
Well, Goodson anticipates that reality, and issues a disclaimer::
Given that movements are fueled by human passion, they're not something to be trifled with or taken lightly...members of a movement are hungry for meaning and authenticity, which tends to put movements at odds with superficiality and commercialism.
A lot of companies and organizations need not worry about botching cause marketing with sloppy attempts at marrying concepts which are uneasily married together. Some brands are just better configured to add significant value into the world, making them more amenable to the needs of larger social movements. HÅG Ergonomic creates chairs that alleviate body discomfort, so they are already focused on alleviating human needs. But what about Pepsi? Or Heineken?
If it wasn't already complicated enough, Goodson explains that many social activists or cause influencers are likely to perceive corporate overtures as an attempt to hijack the issue with an ulterior, or less than noble motive.
So Goodson proposes that the solution lies in a finding a common space where the brand and the cause can mutually benefit through collaboration. The details of how this is done are in the case studies, some of which are excellent. Goodson, however, doesn't address the financial costs of doing it right, because there are simply so many variables. Some companies might get their campaign off the ground at almost no additional cost. On the other hand, the highly successful Pepsi Refresh campaign was surely a multi-million dollar affair (check it out). In the end, Goodson presents some examples that skirt his principles a bit because the campaigns he cites don't end up collaborating with other activists or organizations. They simply created a 100% branded campaign that are not co-shared with other players, but do a good job of mimicking or evoking an uprising in some way.
Goodson also includes a lot of case studies from StrawberryFrog which lamentably don't really belong as cause marketing campaigns. The “Share Your Dumb” campaign, for example, was created by StrawberryFrog for SmartCar. To be against "dumb" as would be expressed via a photo competition might seem cute or catchy, but as a cultural movement it ends up being superficial, silly even. Such a campaign may have been successful or entertaining (although we can't be sure and one should be skeptical about the ROI of all photo competitions in 2013), but the book risks betraying reader's expectations in what becomes a descent from a magnificent introduction where Goodson evokes scenes of Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring.
One thing also missing in the book is some kind of rubric that gives readers a better way to measure the success or quality of various cause marketing strategy components.
At any rate, one can feel the inspired effect that has trickled on down from the great revolutions and movements, no matter what social media tactic is being used. It's just not that hard to strike that web 2.0/crowdsourcy feeling. And perhaps even a photo competition could mimic some of the characteristics of a full fledged social cause.
On the bright side, Goodson also focuses on some the best examples of successful for-profit cause marketing: the Pepsi Refresh campaign and Tom's Shoes. Both companies, which are profit motivated, found very natural ways to fulfill human restlessness and need, although perhaps the greatest value that Pepsi could bring for the world is a stunning turn against selling massive amounts of carbonated sugar water, fried chicken and Gorditas.
It's tough to say if that kind of cause marketing would win over the majority of Pepsi's shareholders however.